[ENTERTAINMENT]Film fest focuses on issues of Asian women

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Film fest focuses on issues of Asian women

Being a feminist has lost much of the revolutionary and intellectual luster it had a few decades ago. But that doesn't mean the curtains have dropped on feminist causes; plenty of them still exist all over the world, especially in poor countries. And many have been highlighted and publicized by being dramatized on the silver screen. The women's movement is in theaters again with the Women's International Film Festival in Seoul, which began last week and runs through Friday.

This is the fourth run for the festival. It debuted in 1997, when it was handicapped by funding problems but met enthusiastically by viewers. Until this year, the festival was held every other year since, and now will be an annual event.

This year's festival is the biggest yet, with 80 films in 7 categories from 21 countries to be screened under the theme "See the World Through Women's Eyes." This year's show aims to look at women's issues from distinctly different angles than those of Hollywood films. The spotlight will be on Asian films; one of the categories is "Asian Cinema: A View on Indian Independent Women's Films." Last year's festival had a special section on Mexican films.

Another category to watch pays tribute to an Iranian feminist director, "Focus on Tahmineh Milani." Milani mines for insights into the roles of women in Islamic society. Her three films, "The Hidden Half" (2001), "Two Women" (1999) and "The Legend of Ah" (1991) will play with English subtitles.

As for Korean women on screen, they were portrayed mostly as pretty faces or tramps through the 1980s. That stereotype will come under attack by the four films from the section "Korean Cinema Retrospective; Women as Sexual Outlaws."

All of the movies in the festival have English subtitles, except for the four in the Korean Cinema Retrospective and a few others: "Bus, Stop" (also known as "L'a Bri," 2002) by Lee Mi-yeon, "Tomorrow" by Jacqueline van Vugt and "Lesson" by Shin Eun-young.

Tickets for each movie are 5,000 won ($4). A special Saturday night red-eye ticket gets you five films for 10,000 won.

The festival doesn't stop at just films; the organizers have arranged a number of other special, related events. One will be a concert by the provocative and unconventional singer Lee Sang-eun, which will be held Tuesday at Sungkyunkwan University, after one of the movie screenings.

"With so many films and events, this will be such a good chance to talk about women in today's world," said one of the organizers, Doh Jeong-eun. Are men also welcome? Without hesitating, she said, "Of course."

The festival will be held at Hypertheque Nada and Dongsoong Art Hall in Daehangno, downtown Seoul. To get there, take the No. 4 line to Hyehwa station, go out exit 1 and walk 100 meters. For mothers who can't afford a babysitter, day nurseries are available at the theaters from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day of the festival - free of charge.

For more information, call 02-583-3598, or visit the official Web site, which also has information available in English, www.wffis.or.kr.

by Chun Su-jin

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