With some of the best films in the program at HIFF38, this year’s Korean film line-up is one we are particularly proud of. Featuring 9 films that run the gamut from award-winning arthouse dramas, to blockbuster epic period action films, the HIFF38 SPOTLIGHT ON KOREA is a truly exciting program. Two of the Festival’s SPOTLIGHT ON KOREA films are nominated for awards—the moving drama LAST CHILD for the KAU KA HOKU AWARD (emerging filmmaker), and coming-of-age tale ADULTHOOD for the NETPAC AWARD for Best Asian-Pacific Film. And the Festival is incredibly proud and honored to welcome renowned actress MOON SO-RI with her directorial debut, clever satire THE RUNNING ACTRESS, and bestow her with the Halekulani Career Achievement Award.
Elsewhere in the film line-up, we’ve got rom-com fans covered with the box office hit ON YOUR WEDDING DAY, and the latest from director Lee Joon-ik, SUNSET IN MY HOMETOWN. Fans of period films will be thrilled by the palace intrigue filled FENGSHUI (the third in the FACE READER trilogy), and wowed by the epic war film THE GREAT BATTLE, which masterfully re-creates one of the most famous sieges in early Korean history. Drama lovers make sure to bring your tissues for HERSTORY based on the true story of courageous comfort women who took on the Japanese government. And last but not least, for sci-fi action fans, we’ve got THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION, an action-packed super powered thriller. With all of these great films to choose from, read on to get the low-down on my top picks!
THE RUNNING ACTRESS
Famed Korean actress Moon So-ri (OASIS, THE HANDMAIDEN) goes behind the camera in a triptych of stories playing herself as a middle-aged actress, applying a realist, low-key approach to an inherently ‘meta’ premise to slightly surreal effect. THE RUNNING ACTRESS just proves that Ms. Moon is one of the greatest South Korean actresses of her generation, who is taking her career by the reigns and reinventing herself as an auteur. Reminiscent of films by Hong Sang-soo and Woody Allen, the film’s slice-of-life demeanor about a middle-aged actress and the micro-aggressions she encounters everyday is often funny, but never hitting parody nor self-indulgent. In the end, Moon turns in an impressive directorial debut.
Sung-cheol, and Mi-sook lost their teenage son in a tragic drowning accident when he died saving his friend Ki-hyun. Some time later, as the couple struggles to put their lives back together, they learn that Ki-hyun has been abandoned, and is living alone trying to make ends meet. What begins as a simple offer to help out Sung-cheol at his wallpaper business, turns into much more, as Ki-hyun increasingly becomes enmeshed in the couple’s life. A powerful, beautiful, and heart-wrenching film from first-time director Shin Dong-seok, LAST CHILD is one of the best Korean dramas of the year, and proves that Shin Dong-seok is a filmmaker-to-watch. HIFF is proud to nominate this film for the Festival’s new emerging filmmaker award, the KAU KA HŌKŪ Award.
THE WITCH: PART 1. THE SUBVERSION
In rural South Korea, a young girl flees a government facility, landing bleeding and muddy at a local farmhouse. 10 years later a now teenage Ja-yoon has no recollection of her past, and knows only the elderly couple who have taken her is as her parents. But soon Ja-yoon discovers that she has some incredible talents, she is so talented in fact that she lands on national television. However shortly after her appearance, ominous figures show up, threatening to turn her peaceful life upside down. One of the most exciting, suspenseful and unique science-fiction thrillers in years, and featuring an incredible performance by newcomer Kim Da-mi (MARIONETTE) as Ja-yoon, THE WITCH is a must-see for genre fans that will leave you on the edge of your seat waiting for PART 2!
Moon Jung-sook runs a small travel agency that’s recently hit some hard times, when she comes across an article about an elderly ‘comfort’ woman in the newspaper. Having a now empty office, and wanting to help, she sets up a call center for victims to come forward. Little does she know that this simple act will set the stage for an international legal fight. Based on a true story of ten brave women that took on the Japanese government, HERSTORY is one of the most heart-wrenching, uplifting and inspiring films of the year. Expertly directed by Min Kyu-dong (ALL ABOUT MY WIFE, HORROR STORIES) the film features a fabulous ensemble cast including Kim Hee-ae, Kim Hae-sook, Lee Yong-nyeo, and Moon Sook among others.
After her father’s funeral, 14-year-old Kyung-Un (Lee Jae-In) meets her uncle Jae-Min (Um Tae-Goo) for the first time, but remains cautious of the new man in her life. Her suspicions are confirmed when Jae-Min disappears with her father’s life insurance and becomes an accomplice in his fraud schemes in an effort to get her money back, but things become complicated when they get too close to one of their targets, Jum-Hee (Seo Jung-Yeon). Anchored by the charismatic performances of its central cast and warmed by the comfortable direction of newcomer Kim In-Seon, ADULTHOOD weaves a surprisingly-charming comedy about trust, loneliness and the importance of family amidst the sadness of losing a loved one.