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Seoul's Newest Film Festival Wraps Up

2004/11/27 | Permalink | Source

Fans flocked to the first Jongro Film Festival to catch missed films and see old ones in a new light

Robert Joe (internews)

The Jongno Film Festival closed its doors Thursday night, after a week-and-a-half run from Nov. 18 to 25. The festival showcased internationally acclaimed films, sneak previews and local shorts, as well as a special animated children's program for local orphans.

The festival exceeded the expectations of the organizers. Half of the screenings were sold out before the festival even began and 91 percent of the seats had been filled by festival end.

When asked about the festival's roots, Kim Seo Hee, one of the head organizers said, "Historically, Jongno was very film-centric, but now it's just a place to drink. We want to get back to the idea of Jongno as a film Mecca".

As for the festival's future, Kim expressed doubt, citing the unexpected announcement that the Core Arthall cinema, one of Seoul's few art cinemas, would close its doors following the festival.

On opening night, director Lee Yoon-ki and lead actress Kim Ji-soo of "This Charming Girl" graced the stage to speak about the film.

When asked about how the story so convincingly unveils the layers of a complex woman's personality and traumatic history, Kim said she felt the director "really understands the minds of women". In response to the moderator's question whether he knew a lot of women, Lee smiled and said, "No, but I'd like to".

The Daum "Internet Search" program also gave audiences the chance to meet a director in person. The short films were produced much similar to the BMW film series featuring Clive Owen. Like those films, the Daum films showcased a product, the Daum search engine, as a common theme in each film and made them available on the Internet.

Director Jang Joon-hwan spoke about his piece "Hair", an absurdly hilarious film about one man's obsession with chest hair. In response to a question referring to the commercial failure of his critically acclaimed film "Save the Green Planet", Jang explained that at first he was just excited that his film was going to play in theatres.

"But when it closed after a week, it wasn't a good feeling", he continued with a rueful smile, adding that festivals like the Jongno Festival were a good way to get more exposure for smaller films.

The highlight of the festival for many Korean fans was the opportunity to see an uncut version of Wong Kar Wai's "Days of Being Wild". Organizer Jung Hae Yong, in a nearly Herculean labor of love, secured an uncut print of the film from Japan after being told that none existed in Korea.

"When 'Days of Being Wild' first came out in Korea, the distributors wanted to market it as a Hong Kong noir. They cut out as many references to the adoption story and character background as they could, and even overexposed some of the darker scenes, ruining the mood of the film", said Jung.

His efforts proved fruitful as both special screenings were sold out. One audience member, Jung Hye Sung claimed, "I only came to see this film. I knew I wouldn't get a chance like this again".

In a poignant gesture, several audience members left flowers in front of the screen in memoriam to the late star, Leslie Cheung, a testament to the power of the film, which allowed the star to escape his canto-pop roots and become a serious actor.

One person, Cinecore Vice President In Sang Woo, shed hope for the future of the festival.

"This festival was partly planned to celebrate Cinecore's 8th anniversary. Now that the Core Arthall is closing, we want to establish Cinecore as an art theatre as well", he said. "Our festival comes at the end of the year, and since many films only play for a limited time, our festival takes a look back at the year's best films and gives viewers another chance to see them on the big screen".

When asked about what he'd like to change about the future of the festival, he laughed and said, "More planning".

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