Out of Dark Ages comes a film fest

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Out of Dark Ages comes a film fest

The Pagoda Gay Film Festival, to be held Thursday to Saturday at the Art Cube Theater in Gwanghwamun, provides a look at the last decade of Korean gay movie history.
Sponsored by the Korean Sexual-Minority Culture and Rights Center, the Lesbians Gays Bisexuals Transgenders Coalition for Human Rights and the Korean Gay Men’s Coalition, the festival will show four feature films and 16 short movies made by Korea’s mainstream motion-picture companies and by independent filmmakers.
The festival gets its name from the Pagoda Cinema, a movie theater in Jongno, downtown Seoul, that used to be a popular gathering spot for gay men in the 1970s and 1980s.
During the “Dark Ages” of gay rights in South Korea, the Pagoda Cinema was one of the few places gay men could meet, albeit furtively.
During the 1990s, however, as a more open gay community started to take shape in the Itaewon and Sinchon neighborhoods, the cinema started to lose popularity, finally closing in 2001.
“We felt sorry that we never had a chance to show gay movies at the Pagoda Cinema although it was a mecca for the gay community,” says Lee Song Hee-il, the coordinator of the festival and an openly gay independent film director.
“That’s why we decided to name the festival the Pagoda Gay Film Festival.”
Because the gay and lesbian rights movement has been active only since the 1990s in Korea, this festival is intended to represent approximately the 10th anniversary of the movement and of gay movies.
“Now is a good time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future,” Mr. Lee Song says.
The four full-length films that will be featured are last year’s “Road Movie” and “Taekwon Girl,” as well as 2001’s “Bungee Jumping of Their Own” and 1999’s “Memento Mori.”
For whatever reason, most of these films are about lovers’ triangles, a mix of heterosexual and homosexual couples. The main exception is “Memento Mori,” officially billed as a sequel to the successful horror film “Whispering Corridors.” It is a story of ghosts and revenge at an all-girls high school. “Memento Mori” has won much praise internationally for its dark mood and subtle characterizations.
But since these movies are already available on DVD, most people will be coming for the 16 short movies, which are less available to the public.
Moreover, since there have been no feature films made by openly gay or lesbian directors in Korea, the short films will perhaps provide a more insightful portrait of Korean gay society.
Many, but not all, of the films will be shown with English subtitles. Call (02) 2002-7770 or check their Web site for more details at gondola21.com/pagoda.
The festival is a small event, and the theater has only 77 seats, so the organizers advise getting tickets ahead of time. Tickets are only available at Art Cube’s ticket booth.

by Kay Park
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