Festival brings film back to Chungmuro

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Festival brings film back to Chungmuro

Seoul was once the capital of the film industry in Korea. Somewhere along the way, however, it lost its status and spent time being overshadowed by international film festivals in Busan, Jeonju and Bucheon.

But three years ago, in a bid to recapture some of the city’s cinematic glamour and give these festivals some competition, a new international film festival as launched in Seoul.

It was named after the area where the Korean cinema was born — Chungmuro.

The Chungmuro International Film Festival in Seoul, which began in 2007, will be back this year celebrating its third anniversary, but getting there hasn’t been easy.

“We had a tough time preparing for this year’s event and to be honest, things took a serious turn at one point,” said Lee Deok-hwa, a veteran Korean actor who has served as the festival’s director since last year, at a press conference
on Wednesday.

In an emotional moment, his eyes welled up with tears as he talked about the challenges the festival faced.

In particular, it was difficult to find financial support, due in part to the festival’s relatively short history, and to get actors to participate, Lee said. There was even talk of cancelling the festival altogether, he said.

Later, after Lee had recovered his composure, he said, “This is all part of the process of becoming a major international film festival.”

Lee asked attendees to support the festival in the years to come, and added his hope that the festival would become a venue for greater unity in the film industry.

The festival is now on its way to a nine-day run from Aug. 24 through Sept. 1, with a diverse program of 214 films from 34 countries.

The opening film is “New York, I Love You,” a collection of 11 shorts set in New York City and starring internationally-recognized actors Shia
LaBeouf, Natalie Portman and Ethan Hawke.

Portman also wrote and directed the segment of the film bearing her name. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2008.

The competition section, Chungmuro Opus, will give awards to five films selected by a ninemember jury that includes noted Korean director Lee Myung-se and French film critic Daniel Serceau.

New this year is the College Shorts Film Festival, which aims to promote short films while also giving talented young filmmakers the chance to show their works here and at other film festivals abroad.

In the All That Cinema section, audiences will be invited to see films that were popular in other countries but were not screened here, festival
programmer Song Nak-won said.

The festival also features two retrospectives. One examines the work of Shin Sung-il, a Korean actor popular in the 1960-70s who is known as Korea’s James Dean. The other takes a look at the work of late American actress Marilyn Monroe.

Asian action films from the 1990s and 2000s will be featured in the Cine Asia section, and rare art films from the Czech Republic and Latin America will be shown in the Cine Forum section.

The festival will take place on the storied streets of the Chungmuro area in central Seoul.

There are also several outdoor screenings scheduled for places such as City Hall Plaza and the Namsan Hanok Village.

Reservations will be taken beginning Aug. 10. Visit www.chiffs.kr.

*Chungmuro Festival Director Lee Deok-hwa speaks at a press conference Wednesday, where the festival program was announced. Provided by the organizer

By Park Sun-young [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]
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