The ever popular yet elusive film noir, its many variants and its ability to effortlessly cross boundaries and seep into any and all cultures is the main focus of this year's London Korean Film Festival (LKFF). Film critics with a speciality in East Asian cinema have attempted to trace the history of this well-loved genre in the Korean film industry and curated a selection of films spanning decades to highlight some classics which have not yet been given the spotlight they deserve internationally.
But it is not all haunted alleyways, startling acts of betrayal, femme fatales and action scenes drowning in bloodbaths though, so have no fear if (neo-) noir is not your jam. With films like In Between Seasons (directed by Lee Dong-eun || 2016) tackling homophobia and the meaning of family; The First Lap (directed by Kim Dae-hwan || 2017) examining the complexities of relationships and politics; The Mimic (directed by Huh Jung || 2017) twirling in the palms of horror; The Day After (directed by Hong Sangsoo || 2017) dipping its toes into the emotional consequences of betrayal within a marriage; Warriors of the Dawn (directed by Chung Yoon-chul || 2017) hopping back to a much simpler but maybe more untrustworthy time than this; and more, there is bound to be a film in this festival's programme for everyone.
The festival is not without room to celebrate and amplify the voices of women both in the Korean film industry and in society as it has a collection of films exploring feminism, the 'pregnancy order system', politics, harassment and friendship. There are also documentaries, indie films, animations, shorts and panels covering a wide range of topics but sadly only a few of these films will make their way beyond the invisible lines that carve out London. The Korean animation industry is one I am still unfamiliar with and hope to one day have a much closer relationship but for now, I shall be content with the three films that will be making their way to HOME next month (11th & 12th Nov) and pray Netflix continues to listen to my prayers and surprises me in the months to come. I have read and re-read the blurbs for The Merciless (directed by Byun Sung-hyun || 2017), The First Lap and Coin Locker Girl (directed by Han Jun-hee || 2015) and I am still unsure as to which one I am most excited to watch. Needless to say I shall be seeing all three.
For those of you lucky enough to be in London and ready for the show to begin today, I cannot wait to hear your thoughts on the films you chose to see and the panels you eventually attend. I shall be here, waiting patiently for my time to sit back and enjoy watching Korean films on the big screen. Although, a little birdie has informed me that a certain K-horror film (The Mimic) will be screened at HOME next Monday so I may be seeing that for Halloween meaning I would have seen FOUR films which were part of LKFF17 as opposed to seeing only two last year. We are moving up people!
[Disclaimer: I am happy to say that this year I am a LKFF volunteer, however, all views are still and always will be my own :) ]