Korean indie films beckon fans

A scene from "Pink", a psychosexual drama by award-winning arthouse auteur Jeon Soo-il

Local independent cinema has not seen many blockbuster hits like 2009's "Old Partner" lately but smaller films have slowly yet surely been receiving wider exposure. This month sees a particularly strong lineup of low-budget movies in theaters across the country, including international film fest-verified pictures.

Indie flick enthusiasts and moviegoers looking for alternatives to mainstream fare can appreciate this genre, not only in local arthouses, but also at larger venues.

Multiplex giant CGV has been operating Movie Collage, a program that devotes a number of screens to low-budget works, and is hosting an independent film showcase through March 31. Select CGV theaters around the country housing the project will feature premieres as well as past works.

"We feel that an increasing number of moviegoers want more diversity, and Movie Collage does just this. We lose about 3 billion won a year running the program but we see it as a long-term investment. And last year we had a record number of over 3 million moviegoers visiting Movie Collage theaters", said CGV's head of PR Yi Sang-kyu.

"Choked", which was invited to the Berlin and Miami International Film Festivals recently, opened last week at CGV Daehangno, under a section focusing on works by Korean Academy of Film Arts (KAFA) graduates.

The film, also to be screened at the Hong Kong International Film Festival later this month, is the first feature by Kim Joong-hyeon. A young man's life is turned upside down when creditors summon him over his missing mother's debt. The work has been acclaimed for making incisive observations of contemporary Korean society while exuding a sense of compassion.

"Romance Joe", a collection of intertwined stories involving a suicidal assistant director, has also been released in select theaters around the country.

The film is considered one of the most anticipated of the season among critics, as it already won a Citizens' Choice Award at the Busan Festival and competed earlier this year in Rotterdam, which is considered a rite of passage of sorts for promising new directors. It marks the feature debut of Lee Kwang-kuk, the longtime assistant to minimal-realist auteur Hong Sang-soo. The Rotterdam Festival organizers described Lee as playing "the storytelling game with unmistakable pleasure in this elegantly shot first feature".

Fans will be seeing more films that have been invited to Rotterdam including most notably "Stateless Things", the second picture by Kim Kyung-mook to be shown at the Dutch event.

The film is about two outsiders - a North Korean refugee and a gay prostitute - trying to find their niche. Audience members will be able to converse with the filmmaker himself and lead cast members following the 7:40 p.m. screening on Friday at Sangsang Madang Cinema in Hongdae and the 7:20 p.m. screening on Saturday at Indieplus in Sinsa-dong.

On Thursday, moviegoers can see the re-opening of multiple award-winning auteur Jeon Soo-il's stark drama "Pink", about a traumatized woman finding refuge at an obscure port city bar. The film, which had premiered last October, explores the nature of implosive violence and psychosexuality. As typical of Jeon's works, it features long shots that ebb and flow like a series of still life photographs, accompanied by lilting music by rocker Kang San-eh.

The CGV Movie Collage Korean Independent Film Festival also presents past works that have come to define the local genre, such as Yang Ik-june's "Breathless" and last year's decidedly adult animation "King of Pigs".

Abovementioned films are/will be shown at arthouses and Movie Collage theaters around the country including CGV Apgujeong, Gangbyeon, Sangam, Guro and Daehangno in Seoul; CGV Dong (East) Suwon, Ori and Icheon in Gyeonggi Province; and CGV Seomyeon in Busan.

Visit www.cgv.co.kr for more information.

By Lee Hyo-won


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