Korean Cinema Today: The Golden Age of Korean Film?

By Wun Kuen Ng

A panel discussion gathered on April 8 at Korean Society to discuss the topic “Korean Cinema Today.” Nicolas Archambault, Director of Asian Programming, Fantasia International Film Festival, and Tom Vick, Curator of Film Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, and moderator Samuel Jamier, Co-Director New York Asian Film Festival, and Rufus de Rham, Director of Operations for Subway Cinema, discussed the various aspects of the Korean film industry. What has attributed to the success of Korean cinema? Has it reached a golden age, or a bubble?

It was said that the popular wave of Korean directors like Kim Ki-duk grew up on a diet of American films, which influenced the way they made films. With the cross-cultural fertilization, the films become well received internationally.

The Korean cinema has become successful due to government support and the lifting of its censorship in the 1980s. Korean films were able to cover diverse topics from politics to family issues.

Having physical humor, which is translatable, also helps. The films become cultural exports, which attract tourism.

Although it is changing nowadays, the directors in Korean films has a lot of power and creative control. They do everything: from writing the script, to producing, choosing the music, to financing the film, etc.

Some of the films can be made with a very low budget, and still look sophisticated and well crafted. Korean film studios tend to be small with 10-20 full-time staff, which is unlike enormous Hollywood studios.

The film industry in Korea is competitive and attracts young people. Case in point, for a small job, there were 600 applicants.

Why don’t we see more Korean films in American theatres? Some American film distributors fear the import of foreign films.

Among the panelists, some of their favorite Korean films include: My Sassy Girl, The House Maid (the original version in black and white), Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, and Mother. What to look forward to: Face Reader, Snow Piercer, and Red Family.

For the full programs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wE1LpCG_sU

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