Festival puts indie films in the spotlight
This year, independent films have attracted a fair share of interest from the Korean film industry and moviegoers, particularly with the release of the low-budget indie films “Breathless” and “Old Partner,” both of which won critical acclaim at home and abroad.
That’s why the Seoul Independent Film Festival, which opened yesterday, is so timely. The event presents a wide selection of indie movies made each year, and has long provided a comprehensive look at independent cinema in Korea, serving as a catalogue of its past and a barometer for its future.
“In fact, Old Partner and Breathless received favorable reviews at last year’s event and I think that was a sort of prelude to what we have seen this year,” Cho Young-kag, the director of the Seoul Independent Film Festival, said.
Held every December, the festival is the biggest indie film event in the country. It is also the oldest, when its predecessors are taken into account. The festival began in 1975 as the Korean Youth Film Festival, became the Golden Crown Short Film Festival and then was renamed the Korean Independent Short Film Festival in 1999. SIFF celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
Under the theme of “Hit & Run,” this year’s SIFF will screen about 90 films, which were selected out of a record 722 submissions. Among them, 45 films - 34 shorts and 11 features - are expected to compete for the top award, which offers a prize of 15 million won ($12,900).
The festival opener was an omnibus film titled “One Night Stand,” which was made with the participation of filmmakers Min Yong-keun, Lee Yu-rim, and Chang Hoon.
“Three directors made this omnibus film, which depicts mixed feelings related to the ‘one-night stand’ situation, such as passion, fear and confusion,” Cho said.
It is a product of the festival’s new “Indie Triangle Project,” which is supporting the film from its production to its distribution. The film hits local theaters in March, organizers said.
A notable feature of the films to be presented this year is the critical look they take at two issues in Korean society - redevelopment and the so-called “880,000-won generation.”
The redevelopment issue flared following a fire in the Yongsan District earlier this year.
The phrase “880,000 won-generation” refers to the situation facing the younger generation in Korea, who are dealing with the worst job market in history. (The figure, about $750, is the estimated monthly income of a non-regular worker in their 20s.)
The films “Dear Sujin,” “Somewhere Unreached,” the animated film “880,000 Won” and the documentary “Give Me Back My Youth” from the short film competition section are examples of films that depict the sufferings of the 880,000-won generation, according to Kim E-hwan, a novelist and columnist who writes regularly about independent film and served as a preliminary judge for the festival.
“Another feature of this year’s event is that it is dominated by female directors as well as documentary films. Seven of the 11 films in the feature competition section are documentaries and five of the seven are by women directors,” Cho, the festival director said.
The nine-day film festival runs through next Friday at Spongehouse and Indie Space, located at the Joongang Cinema in Jung-gu, central Seoul. Tickets cost 5,000 won for general screenings and can only be purchased on site. Most films will be shown with English subtitles. For more information, visit www.siff.or.kr.
By Park Sun-young