Don't Blink – Short Films in the Spotlight

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Don't Blink – Short Films in the Spotlight

Life is short, more's the pity, but there are some things that can benefit from brevity, and one of these is the short film. Attractive for their originality, short films can provide the filmmaker with an opportunity to experiment, breathing new life into the film industry.

About 300 short films are produced in Korea every year, according to Jenna Ku of Indiestory, a distribution agency for Korean independent films. Ms. Ku told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition that Korean short films are noteworthy not only for the quantity produced but also for their quality.

One good example is "Grandma," a five-minute film directed by Joh Sungyeon. Ms. Joh said, "It's the story of my own grandma, who went through hard times under the colonial rule of the Japanese and the Korean War."

"Grandma" has won attention for its visual effects and original plot. It was featured at the Ottawa International Animation Festival 2000 in Canada, and will be shown at upcoming international film festivals such as the 2001 Sundance Film Festival (from Thursday to Jan. 28 in the United States) and the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival 2001 (from Jan. 26 to Feb. 3 in France).

Korea has attracted interest from around the world for films like "Grandma." A retrospective of Korean short films is to be held at the the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival 2001, titled "Short Films in the Land of the Quiet Morning." Roger Gonin, an organizer, told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition, "We are very impressed by the number and the quality of Korean short films. In Asia, South Korea is unquestionably the country that produces the most short films. This retrospective is a showcase for the diversity and dynamism of their booming production."

Conversely, a lack of interest within Korea itself has afflicted the independent short film industry. Jun Hee-young, a moviegoer, said, "I'm not interested in shorts. I would much rather watch a Hollywood block-buster running at a local theater than take the trouble to look for short films on the Internet." Though "Grandma" won recognition from short film enthusiasts, a general absence of public attention denied it popular success. And for the majority of independent films, the situation is far worse.

But the future may be brighter. According to Ms. Ku, several recent short film festivals have succeeded in gaining public interest. She says more thorough efforts are needed from directors and audiences alike, along with increased social support. Kim See-moo, a movie critic, said, "Many directors regard their short films merely as a type of practice, which negatively influences the quality of the films. Instead, by holding festivals, they should find ways to get clos-er to the public."

Ms. Ku added, "France has cable channels exclusively devoted to independent films. Social support of this kind to protect the short film industry is quite significant."

Perhaps with excellent short films fully supported by stepped-up publicity activity, Korean audiences would have no reason to stay away.

One thing's for sure ? you can always find a spare five minutes for a short.

'Grandma,' a Korean short film directed by Joh Sungyeon, won praise for its originality.

by Chun Su-jin

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