Festivals accent trends in documentary, women’s filmmaking
The spring film festival season kicks off this year with two staples of the film festival scene, the 10th Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival (Sidof) and the 13th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul.
Sidof got started yesterday at Lotte Cinema’s Hongik University branch. The 60 documentaries in the seven-day festival are organized into three sections: Sidof Choice, Sidof Focus and Asia Focus.
Sidof Choice aims to show the latest trends in documentary filmmaking. Of the 24 films screening this year, chief curator Ahn Jung-sook recommends “Love in Korea,” which is the opening film, and “No Name Stars.”
“Love in Korea” is the seventh film featuring Bangladeshi filmmaker Mahbub Alam. As the film starts, Alam is contacted by a Bangladeshi film crew with plans to produce a film in Korea. Excited by the news, Alam serves as their guide in Seoul but during production six crew members suddenly go back to their home country. When they don’t return, Alam decides to fly home to find out what happened to them. Alam came to Korea to work temporarily in 1999 but decided to stay and eventually became active in the migrant worker community. He founded Migrant Worker TV, has starred in six Korean films and directed three documentaries about migrant workers’ rights.
Kim Tae-il’s “No Name Stars” tracks the hidden heroes of the Gwangju Democratization Movement, the citizens’ uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Jeolla, in 1980. These forgotten heroes made rice balls to feed the demonstrators who were instrumental in bringing about Korea’s democratization movement but are regularly left out of Korean history books. The omission inspired Kim to tell their stories.
This film, along with “Searching for Dead Dogs” and “My Sweet Baby,” are available with English subtitles.
One of the most interesting films in the Sidof Focus section is “Miracle on Jongno Street,” which documents the struggles of four young gay people in Seoul. It was chosen as the film of the year last December by the Association of Korean Independent Film and Video. Pusan International Film Festival, Asia’s biggest film festival, which recently changed its name to Busan International Film Festival, also honored the film with its Mecenat Award last October. The award is given to the best Asian documentary.
This will be the last chance to see the film before it is released nationwide in June. It will be screened at the festival with English subtitles.
This year’s Asia Focus section features six Chinese documentaries including “Chinese Closet,” which is about members of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in China, many of whom are in the closet. Programmer Huh Eun-kwang recommends it to viewers as a counterpoint to “Miracle on Jongno Street” because the two films use very different techniques to deal with the same subject.
The multi-venue International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul opens on April 7 and runs until April 14 with 110 films from 30 countries. Tickets for this festival always sell out quickly, so it is best to buy them in advance.
Festival programmer Kwon Eun-sun offered her recommendations for the festival at a recent press conference in central Seoul. She encouraged festivalgoers to explore the New Currents and Ani-X sections.
New Currents is a collection of the latest films by female directors. Among the films in this program, Kwon recommended Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui’s “Year without a Summer.” The film depicts the past and present friendship of two childhood friends.
The Ani-X section, traditionally a very popular section, features short films - from 3-D to hand-drawn films - by female animation artists from Korea and abroad.
The Asian Spectrum section spotlights Chinese films this year. Included among them is Ning Ying’s “Perpetual Motion,” in which four Chinese women talk openly about their sexuality. Ning Ying is one of a few renowned female directors in China.
In addition to introducing Korean audiences to a wealth of new films by female directors from Korea and abroad, another of the festival’s achievements is its success in nurturing the careers of new and emerging female documentary filmmakers. The primary vehicle for this is the Documentary Ock Rang Award, which was won last year by Korean director Ji Min. This year, the festival features the world premiere of her autobiographical documentary “2 Lines.” In the film, the director sets out to answer the question of whether marriage is optional in Korea after finding herself pregnant with no plans to marry.
The Seoul Independent Documentary Film and Video Festival runs through March 30 at the Hongik University branch of Lotte Cinema. Ticket costs 5,000 won. For more information, visit www.sidof.org or call (02) 362-3163.
The International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul opens on April 7 and runs through April 14. The main venues are the Artreon Theater in Sinchon, the Korean Film Archive, Seoul Women’s Plaza and Yangcheon Art Hall. Tickets cost 5,000 won. For more information, visit www.wffis.or.kr or call (02) 583-3598.
By Sung So-young [email@example.com]