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Korean Films Praised at the Berlin Film Festival

2006/02/28 Source

By Nigel DSa
Staff Writer

The Berlin International Film Festival wrapped February 18th with several prizes awarded to ethnic Koreans. Composer Peter KAM received the Silver Bear for Best Film Music for his score in the Hong Kong made Isabella.

Korean-American director Kim So-yong won the FIPRESCI prize for his feature debut "In Between Days", in the Forum section of the program. Shot in Toronto, the film offers a bleak look at a dislocated Korean teenager who moves west with her mother. "In Between Days" won a special jury prize for independent vision at Sundance earlier this year.

The NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) prize was awarded to Korean-Japanese director Yonghi Yang for her documentary feature Dear Pyongyang, after also winning a special jury prize at Sundance last month. A portrait of the political and personal plights experienced by ethnic Koreans living in Japan, the film focuses on the director's own parents, who remain fervid supporters North Korea. The director visits Pyongyang twice to film her three brothers, who were sent there by their parents as part of a 'returnee' program.

A number of South Korean filmmakers, stars, and industry reps were on hand at this year's Berlinale. Among them was actress Lee Young-ae, of "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance", who sat on the festival's international jury which awards the coveted Golden and Silver Bears. It was the first time a Korean actress had been invited to participate on the main jury of one of the top three international film festivals.

LIM Sung-min, programmer of the Women's Film Festival in Seoul (WFFIS), was part of the 3-member NETPAC independent jury, which awarded the best Asian film screened in the Forum section. Award-winning Producer Oh Jeong-wan ("A Tale of Two Sisters", "A Bittersweet Life", "You are my Sunshine") presided on this year's Short Film Jury.

Director Park Chan-wook, renowned in Europe for his 2004 Cannes Grand Prize winner "Old Boy", joined the Berlinale Talent Campus to deliver public lectures on filmmaking. Other guest speakers in the program included Wim Wenders and Christopher Doyle. PARK also acted as mentor for film teams during this year's Talent Movie of the Week, produced in collaboration with Berlin company Avanti Media.

With protests ongoing in Seoul, PARK staged a one-man protest for an hour in front of the Berlinale Palaste, to publicize S. Korea's decision to halve its Screen Quota System. His placard read, 'No Screen Quota = No "Old Boy"'. Actor Jang Dong-gun also voiced his opposition at the festival while accompanying his film "The Promise", screening out of competition, and "Typhoon", screening at the film market.

While no Korean features were in the main competition section this year, films showing in the Official Selection included director Jo Chang-ho's feature debut "The Peter Pan Formula" and Sin Dong-il's "Host and Guest". Director Sin's new project, "My Friend and His Wife" was selected to participate in the Berlinale Co-Production Market, which helps films with a production budget of EU 1-12 million and 30 percent of it already in place, to find additional backers.

Rounding out the selection, director Jeong Jae-eun's film about a group of young inline skaters, "The Aggressives", screened in the Kinderfilmfest / 14 Plus section and student filmmaker KIM Young-su's Myself was part of the Panorama Short Film program.

Mr. Nigel DSa, who teaches English at Hanyang University in Seoul, serves as staff writer for The Seoul Times. Mr. DSa has been contributing many articles to a number of publications. Mr. DSa specializes in film and other cultural affairs.

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