Kiwi flicks on tour: film fest runs across the countryWhile Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” was sweeping box offices around the world, New Zealand and Korea were making connections of their own. Korean blockbusters such as “Old Boy,” “Silmido” and “Antarctic Journals” were shot in New Zealand, and last year the first Korean Film Festival opened in Auckland. Now the tables are turned, and the first New Zealand Film Festival is to open in Korea.
The festival isn’t bound to one city, but will tour the country, going from Seoul to Jeonju, Gwangju and Daegu before ending in Busan.
Surprisingly, the organizers of the month-long event aren’t film buffs or industry promoters: they’re New Zealand ambassador David Taylor and the embassy staff members, who have worked for a year with support from the New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage to bring the festival to Korea.
The festival kicks off this Wednesday at Seoul Art Cinema, central Seoul, with the Asian premiere of Vincent Ward’s fifth feature film “River Queen” (2005). The film, which focuses on a young Irish woman’s search for her lost son whose father was Maori, sold out at its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this year.
Mr. Taylor has been careful to pick films that are likely to appeal to a Korean audience. In June, he set up a selection committee comprising five Korean film industry professionals ― Lim Zi-yeon and Lim Kyung-jin,the manager of Sidus Pictures; the film critic Yu Gina; Hank Kim, the president of Seoul Selection; Kim Seong-uk of the Korean Association of Cinematheques, and the producer of Sidus Pictures. The result is a show of 13 films, most of which have never been seen in Korea, that will run over a period of six days. The genres run the gamut from fantasy to horror to shorts, and include Maori films and works by the emerging filmmakers Brand McGann and Hamish Rothwell.
Rothwell’s “Stickmen” is one of the ambassador’s favorites. “The film can be compared to ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ or even ‘Pulp Fiction’,” the ambassador said. “It’s got a lively mixture of jazz, vibrant visuals and hard-core dialogue.”
Film buffs curious about director Peter Jackson’s work before his smash-hit “Lord of the Rings” trilogy can check out “Heavenly Creatures” (1994), “Bad Taste” (1987) and “Forgotten Silver” (1995) ― all before the famous director’s new remake of the 1933 classic “King Kong” hits Asia later this year.
“I’ve tried to bring as many as varieties whose content can resonate well with Koreans,” said Mr. Taylor, adding that the films can teach Koreans much about both the culture and country of New Zealand. The ambassador, a native of Dunedin, hasn’t restricted himself to the post diplomatic world ― he once moonlighted as a journalist specializing in underground music in Auckland before entering the Foreign Ministry in 1983.
Special guests at the opening night on Wednesday in Seoul will be ― sorry, no Peter Jackson ― “River Queen” director Vincent Ward and its leading actor, Temuera Morrison. Mr. Morrison is one of New Zealand’s most famous actors, having appeared in major Hollywood productions such as “Star Wars” episodes and “Speed 2.”
The film festival will be Mr. Taylor’s last big project; his term in Korea ends in January. Tomorrow, Mr. Taylor is to oversee the signing of a joint venture contract by Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post and Daesung Bi Next, a Korean investment firm, to collaborate in financing and marketing films. The biannual Korean Film Festival is also due to run next year in three New Zealand cities: Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
by Ines Cho
Seoul Art Cinema is located on the fourth floor of Nagwon Arcade in Jongno district. The nearest subway station is Jonggak station, line no. 1 and exit no. 3. After Seoul, New Zealand Film Festival 2005 travels to Jeonju from Oct. 19 to 22; Gwangju from Oct 22 to 27; Daegu from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3, and Busan from Nov. 4 to 9. For more information on the Festival, visit the Web site, www.nzff.co.kr.