A common wealth of ideas

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A common wealth of ideas

Korea's never ending trends come in all the colors of the rainbow. How fitting then that the latest fad is for Oz. No, not Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz ?we're talking Australia. To Koreans, Australia is no longer just an outback full of kangaroos, but a fresh, inspiring destination.

For the past 10 years, the Australia-Korea Foundation has promoted bilateral ties in various fields: art, media, education, sports, science and technology. To celebrate a decade of collaborations, the foundation is organizing a cultural festival, starting Thursday and running for one week.

Rodney Hall, the director of the Australia-Korea Foundation, chose Daehangno in northern Seoul as the venue for "Meeting Australia in Daehangno" because it is a hot spot for young Koreans. Near three local universities, Sungkyunkwan University, Sungshin Women's University and Broadcasting University, Daehangno is bustling with young collegians, performance lovers and hungry souls.

The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition spoke with Mr. Hall and his assistant, Ian Dixon, a film director and actor, about bringing the festival to Seoul:

IHT-JAI: What was your first involvement with Korea?

Hall: I came to Korea as the chairman of the Australia Council for the Arts in the Australian Embassy, in 1992. Since then, I've been back and forth, and it's my 11th visit this time.

My main goal is education. I wanted to introduce Australia to young Koreans, especially those in their early teens, as an ideal place to learn English because living in Australia costs much less.

We had a project called "Investigating Australia" through which we gave away 3,000 videos and DVDs to junior high schools in Korea.

IHT-JAI: What are the highlights of the festival?

Hall: The outcome of the educational project is shown during the festival, at Australia-Korea Children's Art Exhibition. In the past, teachers from Korea had been sent on exchange programs to experience and travel in Australia, and teachers from Australia to Korea. When the teachers returned, their children drew based on what they heard from the teacher. Their art is titled "My Place, Your Place." We are showing children's innocent world of imagination, and the images are really sweet.

We're presenting the first public viewing of the Australian photographer George Rose's works, a series of stereographs of Koreans in 1904. An American researcher, Norman Thorpe, discovered these marvelous works two years ago.

IHT-JAI: You're a novelist by profession, aren't you?

Hall: I've written 34 books and some of them have been translated into many languages. "The Best 10 Australian Novels Ever" list includes my novel, "Captivity Captive" (1988, published by Picador). The book is being made into a feature film, on which I work with Ian. I've been an author and poet, but frankly, the work at Foundation has taken up most of my time! I just took a slice of my life to organize the festival. Currently I'm writing "Last Love Story," a novel. I never stop writing.

IHT-JAI: There will be an Australian film festival ?one of the first in Korea.

Dixon: The festival in Seoul is small-scale, but has a wide range of everything. "Yolngu Boy," for example, is a story of the aborigines, but told by the Caucasian director Stephen Johnson; it has a formal structure. "Kiss or Kill," on the other hand, is an intimate story of individuals, largely improvised. "Hotel Sorrento" has a traditional structure, but is a famous play in Australia. Through this event, I look forward to exchanges of Australian and Korean films in the future. I found "Warrior" truly spectacular and "Foul King" very interesting. I was impressed with the Korean horror films, such as "Memento Mori" directed by Kim Tae-yong and Min Kyu-dong.

IHT-JAI: But then you're also a film director.

Dixon: My directorial works have been shown in Ireland, Portugal and San Francisco. I directed a popular soap opera, "Neighbors." Before becoming a director, I was an actor in both plays and films for the past 10 years, and I still am. Right now? I'm an Aussie, but I play a Scotsman, a bad guy, on a Canadian TV series shot in Australia.

What's doing Down Under? You can find out around Seoul

"Meeting Australia in Daehangno" is a small but creative festival of various artistic genres: performing arts, music, street performances, photography and crafts exhibitions, a children's book fair, science lectures, teachers exchange programs and a film festival.

Here are the highlights:

The festival will present some world music: a new blend of ancient instruments unique to Australia and Korea.

Riley Lee and Matthew Doyle will play traditional Australian musical instruments, the shakuhachi and didgeridoo, alongside Kim Duk-soo, the celebrated master of the Korean drums.

Their performance is at Polimedia Theater at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The Australia-Korea Children's Art Exhibition is part of the Australia-Korea Teacher Exchange program, organized by the Asia Education Foundation, Asialink and Chungbuk National University. The Foundation invited Korean teachers to travel in Australia, and Australian teachers to go to Korea. When the teachers returned, their students drew pictures about their teachers' experiences.

The exhibition starts Thursday and runs until April 24 at Craft Space Mokkumto.

"Australian Contemporary Film Festival: An Encounter with Australian Films," sponsored by the Australian Embassy and the Dongsoong Arts Center, will kick off at Hypertech Nada, starting Thursday and running until April 24.

The selection includes "Yulngu Boy," directed by Stephen Johnson, as the opening film and "The Sum of Us," starring a young Russell Crowe. Admission is 5,000 won ($3.80).

"Night Vision," starring Australia's best-known contemporary dancer Delia Sylvan, is coming to Seoul. Ms. Sylvan worked with Australian Dance Theater, Danceworks and Leigh Warren and Dancers. Ms. Sylvan will dance to the cello, harp, piano and percussion played by Australia's leading musicians. The first "Night Vision," performed during the Sydney Spring Festival in September, 2001, received critical acclaim.

For more information, call 02-3676-0170 or visit the foundation's official Web site at www.akf.or.kr.

by ,Joe Yong-hee

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