Rock the Summer Heat With Music-Themed Films
By Lee Hyo-won
The movie theater always provides escapism, and can be a haven ― air-conditioned and entertaining ― from the sultry summer heat. But don't hide from the sun ― why not enjoy a break filled with cinema and live music by the lakeside? The 4th Jecheon International Music Film Festival (JIMFF) will take place Aug. 14-19 in the scenic city in North Chungcheong Province featuring 82 movies from 30 countries as well as 30 live concerts.
While very young, JIMFF has established a reputation as popular getaway, where one can enjoy a silent film with music by a live band by Chungpoong Lake. But more than just a feast for cineastes and audiophiles, the festival is the first of its kind in Korea and Asia, and is out to establish music movies as a recognizable genre like fantastic movies.
Music in Cinema
Music often plays a critical role in cinema ― by heightening the drama, creating an ambiance or adding to character portrayal. But sometimes, music plays a more central role. "Music movies" ― anything from musicals and documentaries about music to stories in which a melody's presence is almost like an autonomous character ― are emerging as a distinctive film genre.
"In music movies, music plays the main role in connecting the audience to the movie", JIMFF festival director Cho Sung-woo told The Korea Times. He is also the music director of over 50 films including critically acclaimed works like "M" by Lee Myung-se
and the upcoming historical epic "The Divine Weapon
" (but ironically the movies he worked on do not pass as music movies, he said, except for a Japanese film "10 Promises to My Dog", which will show under the Family Fest section of the festival).
In order to fathom the meaning of music in movies and to strengthen its own identity as a film festival, JIMFF has launched a competition section. A total of 10 works from different corners of the world will contend for cash prizes of $5,000 to $10,000.
Another new venture is a funding program that covers up to 20 million won of the production cost of a new project. Winners will also receive full support for the post-production cost for music recording and sound mixing. Also, if more than 30 percent of the movie is shot in Jecheon, free lodging will be provided.
"We want viewers to question and define for themselves, and moreover celebrate, the power of music in cinema", said Cho. The festival thus invites the audience to explore the roots of music movies. Tune into Korea's oldest silent film "Turning Point of the Youngsters" (1934) with a live band and narrator, and the first Hollywood sound film, "The Jazz Singer" (1927).
Films to Catch
"Young @ Heart" (United Kingdom, 2007) a documentary about senior citizen choristers in Northampton, Massachusetts exploring the beauty of rock'n'roll, will open the festival. This is a rare instance of a documentary opening a film festival.
The closing film is "The Visitor" (United States, 2007), a drama about how the African drum "djembe" forever changes a professor's life. This work, like last year's opening film and box office hit "Once", opened only on four screens in the U.S. but its unexpected popularity allowed the number to expand to over 200.
Also get a glimpse of what's happening around the world today, from reggae hero Bob Marley's controversial 80th birthday celebration ("Africa Unite", U.S., 2008) to hip hop fever in Morocco ("I Love Hip Hop in Morocco", Morocco/U.S., 2007) and Oscar-winning composer/musician Gustavo Santaolalla's tango tunes in Buenos Aires ("Cafe de Los Maestros", U.S./Brazil/U.K./Argentina, 2008).
There is of course a section devoted to domestic music movies like "Radio Dayz
" (2008). What does the future of the domestic music movie scene look like?
"I'm waiting for the big hit", said Cho. "But there is a positive trend of filmmakers and producers trying to win the audience solely with music. Producers are always looking for something new, and they are discerning that music movies have a market".
The book "Musicophilia" by neurologist/novelist Oliver Sachs shows that more parts of the brain are related to music than language. Music is thus a truly universal language, and how better else can one enjoy an eye and ear-pleasing experience than music movies?
Also to catch are live concerts by musicians like rock band Jaurim, who will perform on Band Night, Aug. 17.
Filming Sites Around Jecheon
" Bridge: This movie by Lee Chang-dong
, former Culture Minister and director of other critically acclaimed films like "Secret Sunshine
" (2007), is considered a classic in Korean cinema. Even those who haven't seen the actual movie are familiar with the famous train track scene where the antihero (Sol Kyung-gu
) screams in agony, "I want to go back". This jarring scene is set amid the beautiful track that spans across a lake in Jinsomaul, Aeon-li, Baekun-myeon, Jecheon.
"The Divine Weapon
" Folk Village: Opening in theaters Sept. 4, it is one of the most anticipated films this fall/winter season. It is expected to help revamp the dwindling domestic film market by trailing the success of homegrown movies like "The Good, the Bad, the Weird
". This historical epic was shot in Muamgyegok, Jecheon.
In addition to movies, Jecheon is home to drama film sets like historical pieces "Iljimae"
and "Taejo Wanggeon". They are great traditional sites in addition to the Cheongpung Cultural Complex.
For more information about the festival, visit Open the link
(English and Korean). For more on touring the city, visit english.okjc.net (English).
Music Movies Around Town
Following the lyrical Bob Dylan movie "I'm Not There", rock fans and film buffs can celebrate the resurrection of John Lennon through "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" (called "John Lennon Confidential" here), now showing in theaters. Also worth tuning to is "Sunny"
by Lee Joon-ik
starring actress Soo Ae
as a housewife-turned-singer during the Vietnam War. Korean oldies like Kim Chu-ja's "My Love Is Far Away" come back to life.