Art and Experience: South Korean films are under the spotlight at this year’s Fajr Festival, bringing both a broad appreciation of genre cinema and a uniquely Korean perspective.
According to the secretariat, seven films with top billing will show South Korea’s growing cinematic clout at this year’s run, which is presided over by Reza Mirkarimi from 21 to 28 April in Tehran.
Here are all the titles screening:
The Table (2016)
1h 12min | Drama
Director: Kim Jong-kwan
Main Cast: Lim Soo-jung, Jung Yu-mi, Han Ye-ri
A couple faces each other across a café table talking; he’s apparently returned from Europe and she’s not happy about him asking her to meet after such a long time. This talky, single-location drama grapples with romantic dilemmas.
Kim Jong-kwan (born 1975) is an acclaimed and prolific short filmmaker known for his inventive short form narratives. He has helmed the omnibuses Lovers (2008) and Come, Closer (2010). His first feature Worst Woman (2016) which debuted at the 17th Jeonju International Film Festival, won the FIRESCI Award at the 38th Moscow International Film Festival in 2016.
The Net (2016)
1h 54min | Drama
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Main Cast: Ryoo Seung-bum, Park Ji-il, Jeong Ha-dam, Sung Hyun-Ah
Ryoo Seung-bum stars as Nam Chul-woo, a poor fisherman living a simple life in North Korea with his wife and daughter. One day his net gets caught in his engine, and he is suspected of being either a defector or a spy when his boat accidentally drifts into South Korean waters. He endures interrogation, beatings, and more in his attempt to return to his family, even as he comes to the realization that his life will never be the same.
Kim Ki-duk (born 1960) is noted for his idiosyncratic art-house cinematic works. His films have received many distinctions in the festival circuit, making him one of the most important contemporary Asian film directors.
Train to Busan (2016)
1h 58min | Action, Horror
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Main Cast: Yoo Gong, Kim Soo-an, Jung Yu-mi
Train to Busan is a harrowing zombie horror-thriller. It follows a group of terrified passengers fighting their way through a countrywide viral outbreak while trapped on a suspicion-filled, blood-drenched bullet train ride to Busan, a southern resort city that has managed to hold off the zombie hordes… or so everyone hopes.
Yeon Sang-ho (born 1978) wrote and directed the animated films The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013), and the live-action film Train to Busan (2016).
The Tunnel (2016)
2h 6min | Drama
Director: Kim Seong-hun
Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Oh Dal-su, Bae Doona
Lee Jung-soo (Ha Jung-woo) drives home for his daughter’s birthday. While driving through a tunnel that goes through a mountain, the unthinkable happens. The tunnel collapses. When Lee Jung-Soo regains consciousness, he finds himself trapped inside his car. The car itself is buried under tons of concrete and debris. All he has inside the car are his cellphone, two bottles of water and his daughter’s birthday cake. He forms a kind of special bond with the head of the rescue team, Dae-kyung, who teaches him how to survive in the tunnel.
Kim Seong-hun began his filmmaking career as an assistant director on the romantic comedies Oh! Happy Day (2003) and He Was Cool (2004). In 2006, he directed his first feature film How the Lack of Love Affects Two Men. It was a critical and commercial failure, and it would take eight years before he could get his sophomore film funded.
The Throne (2015)
2h 5min | Period Drama
Directors: Lee Joon-Ik
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Yoo G. Ah-in, Moon Geun-young
The film is set in the Joseon period (1762), wherein a king tries to teach his son the way of being an eligible prince and a competent king. The film is essentially a portrayal of a power struggle between a narcissistic father and his emotionally abused son, who initially strives to earn his father’s love and admiration, but rebels against his father once he realizes that he can never please his father nor truly earn his respect.
Lee Joon-ik (born 1959) is best known for directing and producing King and the Clown (2005), one of the highest grossing Korean films of all time. He says the ‘Tragedy of 1762’ that Joseon’s royal family suffered some 250 years ago is a real life story where the Crown Prince was locked in a rice chest and left to die by his own father, that is much worse than any other stories that can be found in ancient legends or the tragedies of Shakespeare.
The Last Princess (2016)
2h 5min | Biography, Drama
Director: Hur Jin-ho
Main Cast: Son Ye-jin, Park Hae-il, Ra Mi-ran
In 1925, Korea is ruled by Japan, and 13-year-old Princess Deokhye – the last princess of the Joseon Dynasty – is forced to move to Japan to attend school there. She misses her home, and after she finishes school she makes several attempts to return, but is prevented by pro-Japanese general Han Taek-soo.
Hur Jin-ho’s first steps as a film director did not go unnoticed as his first short, For Go-chul, was selected for the Vancouver International Film Festival. He later co-wrote the script of A Single Spark and Kilimanjaro. Many of his feature films are variations on Hur’s favorite theme: love.
1h 52 min | Action, Comedy
Director: Gye-byeok Lee
Main Cast: Yoo Hae-jin, Joon Lee, Jo Yun-hie
Hyung-wook (Yu Hae-Jin) is a contract killer with a 100% success rate. One day, he goes to a public bathhouse and slips on a bar of soap. Paramedics, including Ri-Na (Jo Yoon-Hee), take him to the hospital. When he wakes up at the hospital, he can’t remember anything about himself.
Lee Gae-byok (born 1971) debuted with the romantic-comedy The Beast and the Beauty (2005). After a 10-year break, he returned with the 2016 action-comedy film Luck-Key, a box office hit with more than 6.9 million admissions.