We would like to sincerely thank everyone who submitted their valuable projects to the 22nd JEONJU International Film Festival (JEONJU IFF)’s Korean Competition section.
This year, 8 fiction films and 2 documentary were selected.
We’re pleased to announce that the following works have been selected to screen in Korean Competition of the 22nd JEONJU IFF.
The finalists of the Korean Competition are (Korean alphabetical order):
1) NOT OUT (LEE Jung-gon)｜Korea｜2021｜108min｜DCP｜Color
2) Coming to you (BYUN Gyuri)｜Korea｜2021｜93min｜DCP｜Color
3) Awoke (JUNG Jae-ik, SEO Tae-soo)｜Korea｜2020｜97min｜DCP｜Color
4) Kim Min-young of reportcard (LEE Jae-eun, LIM Jisun)｜Korea｜2021｜94min｜DCP｜Color
5) Nineteen (WOO Kyenghee)｜Korea｜2020｜85min｜DCP｜Color
6) Influenza (HWANG Junha)｜Korea｜2021｜73min｜DCP｜Color
7) First child> (HUR Jungjae)｜Korea｜2021｜93min｜DCP｜Color
8) Corydoras (RYU Hyungseok)｜Korea｜2021｜87min｜DCP｜Color
9) Aloners (HONG Sung-eun)｜Korea｜2021｜89min｜DCP｜Color
10) The train passed by (KAM Jeong-won)｜Korea｜2021｜75min｜DCP｜Color
Commentary on the Korean Competition
Many of the 108 films submitted to the Korean Competition section of this year´s JEONJU IFF were representative of the Korean independent film community, which has actively engaged with the affairs of the world. Among the 2021 entries that dealt with various social issues, the ones that stood out first were the films that vividly captured the voices of social minorities. Awoke and Corydoras, in particular, tackle the issue of people with disabilities, which is not a frequently visited topic in Korean films. Awoke gives a cogent account of the troubles of Koreans with disabilities through the protagonist, Jaegi, who became severely disabled due to a car accident. His heart-rending struggle to be recognized as a “person with severe disability” sheds light on the grave defects in the system. Possibly because the film was created by a crew and a cast of both people with disabilities and without disabilities, the contradictions in the disability rating system and the social landscape within the community of disabled people, where people with disabilities exploit others with disabilities, exposed by this film feel almost too real. Corydoras is a documentary that follows the life of PARK Dongsu, a poet who has a disability. It portrays the inner world of a person who has led a difficult life in a facility for disabled people for 23 years but has now begun a new life in the real world. As he has difficulty using his limbs, PARK writes poetry using his foot, and he admires ornamental corydoras, and the emotions brought on by these scenes are certainly not light. The documentary avoids objectifying the protagonist, which also leaves a deep, lingering impression. Coming to you is a documentary about gender minorities and their parents. Portraying the lives of four individuals—Hangyeol, a transgender man, and his mother Nabi; Yejoon, who is gay, and his mother Vivian—this film exposes Korean society’s exclusivity against the LGBTQ community while also demonstrating that an alternative relationship is possible between minorities and non-minorities. The remarkable activities undertaken by Parents and Families of LGBT People in Korea (PFLAG Korea) are tug at the heartstrings as well. This documentary is particularly significant in the Republic of Korea today, marked by the tragic death of Staff Sergeant BYUN Heesoo.
Films focusing on the various issues in Korean society also left a deep impression. Aloners is a rather timely piece, given the increasing number of people who are doing things alone (termed holojok in Korean) in the COVID pandemic. Rather than simply describing this issue, the film uses this issue as a knife to slice a corner of life in modern Korea and examine it. The frightening and harsh moments of life that the film’s protagonist Jina experiences may ultimately intensify the loneliness and terror of the viewers. First child follows Jeong-ah a married woman with a child, and makes a strong case about the difficulty of realizing the seemingly ordinary desires of average Korean women—to marry, have a child, and pursue a career. In the process of trying to achieve her ordinary dreams, Jeong-ah comes to see the nanny as another woman like herself, and this is the decisive factor that differentiates this film from other conventional stories. Influenza spotlights “taeum,” a hazing practice among Korean nurses that once received wide news media coverage. The film scrutinizes why and how senior nurses bully and harass junior nurses, and the results of such bullying. The process in which the protagonist, Dasol, is transformed from a victim of the “taeum culture” to a senior nurse in charge of a junior nurse reveals the shadow of power cast over every community. The train passed by does not bring a social issue to the surface, but the film unfolds against the backdrop of an “industrial accident,” which is one of the biggest problems in Korean society. Tracing the pallid footsteps of a woman laborer who has no particular presence in society, this film makes an unmissable accomplishment through extremely simple and concise expressions. The commendable performance of GONG Minjeong, one of the celebrated actors in the Korean independent film industry, is also something that merits viewers’ attention.
NOT OUT, Nineteen, and Kim Min-young of the Report Card are films that capture the heart-throbbing lives of youths. Nineteen-year-old high school baseball star Gwangho is the protagonist of NOT OUT. Feeling hurt when he is not chosen in the professional baseball draft, he decides to go to college instead. Yet Gwangho’s decision leads to his high school baseball coach surreptitiously asking for a bribe, and his friends turning their backs on him. The film follows Gwangho, as he makes poor choices and bad decisions on his bumpy journey of life. The protagonist of the film Nineteen is, as the title suggests, a nineteen-year-old girl named Sojeong. She lives with her mother in a public rental apartment, but one day her mother passes away. It follows her anxiety that she will be kicked out of the apartment if she reports her mother’s death and that she might have to live with her violent father instead. Coincidentally, the story of Jeonghee and Minyoung, two girls in the film Kim Min-young of the Report Card, begin in their last year in high school, at the age of 19. (It seems that budding nineteen-year-olds with seeds of change also have many seeds of stories.) Having become inseparable friends through the “Three-line Poetry Club,” the girls each enter on a separate path of life upon graduating from high school. During the summer, Minyoung, now a college student, and Jeonghee, unemployed after losing her part-time job, end up spending a night together in Seoul. With unique sensibilities, this film presents a delicate web of the two girls’ intimate relationships.
Considering that the past year was marked by the COVID outbreak, it may seem surprising that there were not many films focusing on the pandemic. Perhaps this is because we are not yet ready to take this pandemic and the era of pandemic into the realm of film. Or, perhaps the pandemic has made the existing contradictions in our society more prominent, and this year’s films are reflecting the social issues that have been foregrounded by the pandemic. Maybe we will see a clear picture of Korea in the pandemic in next year´s films. Another thing I would like to mention is the marked reduction in the number of films that portray or focus on women and women´s lives. Compared to a slew of films that dealt with various women´s issues submitted last year, the number of such films was much smaller among this year´s entries. However, considering that the situation of Korean women has not improved dramatically in the past year, I am confident that exceptional and powerful women’s films will be made in greater number in the future, and I hope to continue seeing such films in Jeonju. Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who made and submitted their works to JEONJU IFF despite the difficulties of the pandemic.
MOON Seok, a programmer of JEONJU IFF
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