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Korean cinema at Cannes 2006

2006/06/02 Source

The year 2006 saw Korean cinema enjoy less of a spotlight at Cannes than in 2005 -- when a record seven films screened at the event -- or in 2004, when Park Chan-wook's "Old Boy" was awarded the Grand Prix. Nonetheless, the dynamism of the Korean film industry could be felt in the screening of films outside the main competition, in deals concluded at the Cannes market, and in the presence of Korean filmmakers on the Croisette, campaigning on behalf of Korea's Screen Quota system. As always, KOFIC was also present at the festival to operate the Korea Pavillion and to promote Korean cinema to the world film community.

A total of three Korean films screened at Cannes this year: Yoon Jong-bin's student feature "The Unforgiven" (which won multiple awards at Pusan in 2005) in the Un Certain Regard section; Eom Hye-jeong's award-winning short Home "Sweet Home" in the International Critics Week; and the world premiere of Bong Joon-ho's monster movie "The Host" in the Directors Fortnight section.

Of the three films, most notice was given to "The Host", in that it was the first screening of the highly-anticipated film, and reviews were broadly positive. Earning a standing ovation from its packed crowd, "The Host" was described in glowing terms by critics and film festival programmers, with New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis calling it "the best film I've seen to date at this year's festival".

Enthusiasm for the film also spilled over into the market, where the film was sold by sales agent Cineclick Asia to Magnolia Pictures for North America, the UK and Australia. Operator of the Landmark Theaters chain, Magnolia is expected to give the film a well-marketed release in the U.S. in late 2006. Combined with sales to 10 other Asian, European and Latin American territories, the film raised $2.3 million during the festival. This comes in addition to an earlier $4.7 million pre-sale ($3.2 million for rights, $1.2 million investment) to Happinet Pictures in Japan.

Another Korean film that secured lucrative international sales deals was Ryoo Seung-wan's "The City of Violence", which premiered in the market and secured deals to 20 countries. The comparatively low-budget film was sold to the UK, France, Germany, Spain as well as Brazil and a variety of Southeast Asian territories. The sales reportedly accounted for about half of the film's budget.

Sales company KM Culture also secured a major, multi-million dollar sale of "Once in a Summer", a feature film starring top-level star Lee Byung-hun and actress Soo Ae to Japan. The film is directed by Joo Geun-sik who made his debut with the critically-praised Conduct Zero ("No Manners") in 2002.

Meanwhile, Korean filmmakers drew widespread press attention for their efforts to call attention to the halving of Korea's Screen Quota system, scheduled to take place on July 1. Led by actor Choi Min-sik ("Old Boy"), the delegation held silent protests, press meetings, interviews, and press conferences to bring attention to the plight of the Screen Quota and issues of cultural diversity in general.

As for KOFIC, the Korea Pavillion in the Village International was co-hosted this year by KOTRA, the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency. The Pavillion provided a venue for journalists and film industry professionals to pick up promotional materials on Korean cinema (including the newly re-designed quarterly Korean Film Observatory), to schedule interviews with people from the Korean film industry, or simply to chat with representatives of KOFIC.

On May 23 KOFIC and KOTRA also hosted Korean Film Night, a party for film professionals at Cannes that attracted 450 guests. Other activities by KOFIC include a luncheon with international journalists to discuss better ways to promote Korean cinema abroad, and a meeting of the Asian Film Industry Network, comprised of film promotional organizations from Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Darcy Paquet (KOFIC)

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