August saw two major successes in South Korean independent film with "The House of Us" and "House of Hummingbird". The first has grossed over fifty thousand admissions and the second is set to break one hundred thousand this weekend. But aside from being popular in their own right, both films are noteworthy for having been directed by women, who have long had more difficulty than men in getting their films made, even on the independent film circuit.
Over the next week two more highly anticipated films by women directors will join their ranks. "Our Body", an ambiguously queer drama about a woman who becomes obsessed with running, will open on September 26th. "Maggie", which deals with a sexual scandal at a hospital, will open on the same day. Both movies were widely acclaimed internationally and at the local festival circuit before their current domestic release.
Many factors explain the relative strength of such movies at the moment. The disappointing overall box office performance this summer likely helped drive up interest in more offbeat films like "The House of Us" and "House of Hummingbird". The child-centered "The House of Us" was able to build off of director Yoon Ga-eun's reputation from her previous similarly titled film"The World of Us" while "House of Hummingbird" built buzz off of its serious nineties childhood backdrop.
The movies have also benefited from significantly improved distribution compared to just a few years ago. "Our Body" and "Maggie" will be premiering in several dozen theaters across South Korea, most of them mainstream ones, although not necessarily in the most convenient timeslots. But any awareness of these movies in theaters is good in the long term, as independent films in South Korea usually make most of their money in secondary markets.
The way the films offer a female perspective and female main characters is also likely to be a point of distinction for female viewers, who don't generally get that with mainstream movies, even as male viewers also find much of interest in the projects. Director Yi Okseop of "Maggie" recently suggested that the trend of women directors was a wave that may soon turn into a typhoon. The next month or so will bare that theory out.
Written by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's News] Women Directors Gaining Prominence in South Korean Independent Films"
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