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Film Festival Spotlights Korean Diaspora

2008/08/26 Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

Outside of the Korean Peninsula, some 7 million ethnic Koreans ― labeled Joseon or Goryeo "saram", Corean or Korean depending on geography ― dot the globe. A film festival aims to bring the Korean Diaspora into scope and inspire communication and understanding among the different branches: the 4th Corean Network Film Festival (CNFF) presents 24 films from eight countries beginning Thursday through Sunday at Indiespace in Myeongdong, central Seoul.

The festival allows the audience to explore different facets of the Korean experience through films that are either about the Diaspora or are made by directors of Korean heritage. "Neither Fish, Nor Fowl" (2002, Germany) by Matthias Keilich will open the festival Thursday evening. Michael, adopted by his German family at a young age, is constantly searching for his identity, not feeling neither fully German nor Korean. When he falls in love with Jin-hi, a Korean immigrant, his ignorance of the Korean culture becomes an obstacle in winning the approval of Jin-hi's traditionalist father.

In the section titled "History of Emigration", films trace the different walks of life Koreans take. "HERs" (2007, Korea) shows three Korean women trying to survive in three American cities, while "Hyazgar" ("Desert Dream", 2007, Korea), which competed in the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, follows the journey of a North Korean defector family through the Mongolian desert.

This section also brings to light the transforming texture of the local social fabric: Korea, often considered one of the most homogenous societies in the world, is now home to 1 million foreigners. The short film "Dance of a Free Bird" (2008, Uzbekistan) is about a young Sri Lankan man's troubled efforts to meet a Korean girlfriend.

The " Friends " section emphasizes "uniqueness" rather than "differentiation" to describe the colorful identities Koreans adopt overseas. Director Yukio Tanaka documents the life of Japan's popular singer Pak Poe in "Across Borders, Pak Poe: A Korean Japanese Singer" (2003, Japan). Born to a Korean father and Japanese mother, Pak had debuted in the 1970s with the Japanese name Hirose. But he eventually changed his name to a Korean one, and has since been committed to making music with strong social messages, earning a reputation as the Bob Dylan of Japan. The rocker will perform for Seoulites at 7:30 p.m. tonight, at the outdoor stage near the Korea Tourism Organization building by Cheonggye Stream. The concert is free of charge.

"Unity" features films that explore various themes of division and reunification of the two Koreas, including the heartbreaking separation of families. Particularly eye-catching is a collection of short stories by "Seteomin" or North Korean refugee students living in Korea, which will be screened Saturday noon.

Friday, at 4 p.m., three directors will discuss the Korean Diaspora: third generation Chinese-Korean Zhang Lu, fourth generation Uzbekistani-Korean Pak Ruslan and Brazilian-born Paula Un-mi Kim. Sunday, "Island Being" (2007, Mexico) will wrap up the festival. Director Ihm Eun-hee, who is from Mexico City, brings a documentary about Korean leprosy patients who were forced to move and live in isolation in Sorok Island during the 1980s.

Most Korean-language films are available with English subtitles. Visit Open the link (Korean and English) for more information. Indiespace is located in Joongang Cinema, near Euljiro 3-ga Station on subway lines 2 and 3. Call (02) 337-6533.

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