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Korean Films Shine at Spring Showcase 2012!

Every spring and fall HIFF shines the spotlight on some of the best Korean films of the year, and Spring Showcase 2012 is no exception. Korean films are always some of the most popular festival fare among HIFF audiences, and are beloved by HIFF staff. This year HIFF has a whopping FOUR South Korean films at Spring Showcase! I’m probably not the only one who is jumping up and down and giggling a little at the thought. So just to give you a quick preview of what you have in store, here is a rundown of the K-Films at the Showcase and some fun-facts you might not know!

1. ALWAYS

The Skinny: If there is one film at Spring Showcase that will truly tug at your heartstrings it is ALWAYS, the latest effort from director Song Il-gon. The story is simple, mismatched fated lovers overcome great adversity. An ex-boxer with a closed heart (So Ji-sub) meets a beautiful telemarketer going blind (Han Hyo-joo), and their lives are changed forever. Do you need some tissues yet? Known for his more auteur fare, this love story is poetically told by Song and brings something to the table for those who love both the arthouse and the more popular Korean cinema. Bring a date, bring a friend, and snuggle up for this wonderful romantic drama!

The Facts: This film represents quite a shift in style for director Song Il-gon known for his auteur style as seen in such films as FLOWER ISLAND and THE MAGICIANS (2005). However, moving into the popular romance genre, Song has not forgotten his roots, and brings some of his remarkable visuals to the film to create a subtle, beautiful feel. Some Korean film fans may recognize heartthrob So Ji-sub from the film ROUGH CUT (2008), but can expect a much more subdued performance in ALWAYS. And finally, fans may be interested to know that ALWAYS was originally slated with the English title ONLY YOU.

2. LOVE ON AIR

The Skinny: Delightfully Entertaining, and ultra-smooth, this Korean rom-com from director Kwon Chil-in is a true instant-classic in the Korean romantic comedy genre. This may be the best Korean rom-com since CYRANO AGENCY (2010), filled with wonderful heartwarming moment and lots of laughs. The basic plot: Former pop-star now radio host Jin-a (played by Lee Min-jeong) gets a rude awakening when her waning show gets a new manager. But when her new segment is a hit, the winds begin to change for Jin-a and her show, that is until an old foe comes back to haunt her…. This is a great film for lovers of all things Korean, K-Drama, K-Pop, K-Style, K-Cinema; or anyone who just loves a film that puts a smile on your face!

The Facts: This is the fifth feature film from director Kwon Chil-in, who you might know from his much-loved films LOVEHOLIC (2009) and HELLCATS (2008), as well as early hit SINGLES (2003). Known for his masterful direction of actresses, he lives up to his reputation in the amazing performance he extracts from lead actress Lee Min-jeong. K-drama stars will recognize Lee from her role in BOYS OVER FLOWERS (2009) the popular television series. This is one of her first major silver screen roles, and she truly carries this film with her performance. This film bodes well for Kwon and Lee, true rising stars of Korean cinema!

3. COUPLES

The Skinny: A true comedy of error, mishaps, and intersecting lives, COUPLES is a fun-filled ride with a deceivingly simple-yet-complicated plotline. Through a series of vignettes and concurrent story lines, director Jeong Yong-ki masterfully weaves a story in which the characters become increasingly intertwined. The story in this case is not so simple, but basically cafe owner Yoo-suk (played by Kim Joo-hyeok) is having a very bad day, and some serious women troubles. With a missing fiance, a new love interest on the horizon, and bank robberies in between its hard to believe but the drama is just beginning! Jeong’s take on the multi-character, multi-story crossed-paths sub-genre is surprisingly fresh, fun, and exciting. This is another Spring Showcase K-film that would be great for a date night, or even a night out with the guys or gals!

The Facts: COUPLES is actually a Korean remake of a wildly popular Japanese film A STRANGER OF MINE (2004) directed by Kenji Uchida. But have no fear, director Jeong Yong-ki really makes it his own and offers a truly Korean take on the original. This is Jeong’s fifth feature film, known for his MARRYING THE MAFIA sequels, and the 2008 film ONCE UPON A TIME. The film features a strong ensemble cast, but Kim Joo-hyeok (YMCA BASEBALL TEAM, SINGLES) as Yoo-suk and his love interest played Lee Yoon-ji (known for her TV K-drama roles) offer standout performances with their subtle and effortless performances.

4. CITY IN BLOSSOM

The Skinny: CITY IN BLOSSOM is a film about love; but more than the romantic love that anchors the plotline, this is a film about the love between a city and a film festival. The film centers around the annual Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) in Puchon, Korea, and tells the tale of love rekindled during the film festival. This film, directed by Inha University professor and PiFan’s Festival Director Kim Young-bin, is close to my heart as a film festival organizer. But anyone interested in seeing a behind-the-scenes ‘insider’ view of a major festival will LOVE this film. Whether you are film festival buff, or just love a heartwarming love story, you will truly enjoy one of Korea’s best independent films of the year.

The Facts: CITY IN BLOSSOM is one of the most unique films at Spring Showcase 2012 not only because it is about a film festival, but also because it is directed by a Film Festival Director! This film is truly director Kim’s love letter to the beloved film festival that he runs, and features real footage from the 2011 edition of the PiFan Festival. All of the events that take place during the festival portion of the film use footage from PiFan 2011 and feature some of Korea’s hottest stars! And if you watch close you might catch a glimpse of our Programming Director, Anderson Le in some of the crowd shots;) This film was funded by the municipality of Puchon, to help highlight the burgeoning culture and arts of their city, and will air on Arirang TV later this year.

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