Promising indie films hit theaters

By Claire Lee

‘Han Gong-ju,’ ‘My Father’s Emails’ and‘Shuttlecock’ open in April

  • Published : Apr 9, 2014 - 20:35
  • Updated : Apr 9, 2014 - 20:35
The year 2011 was a memorable period for Korea’s independent cinema. A number of films, such as Yoon Sung-hyun’s “Bleak Night,” Park Jung-bum’s “The Journals of Musan” and Min Yong-geun’s “Re-encounter,” enjoyed both critical and commercial success.

The industry hopes to see such success repeated this year, as some of the most anticipated indie films are opening in theaters all at once this month. One of them is director Lee Su-jin’s local debut feature “Han Gong-ju,” which nabbed eight trophies at international film festivals including Rotterdam, Marrakech, Deauville and Fribourg. 
“Han Gong-ju” (CGV Movie Collage)

‘Han Gong-ju’ by Lee Su-jin

The film, which tells the tragic tale of a teen gang rape victim, had its world premiere at the Marrakech International Film Festival in November, where it won its first international prize, given by a jury headed by Martin Scorsese.

Its cinematic accomplishment aside, the film drew attention in Korea for its resemblance to the horrible 2004 Miryang gang rape case, in which 44 male high school students raped three teenage girls on multiple occasions for over a year in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province. The film opens in theaters on April 17.

“Shuttlecock” (KT&G Sangsang Madang)

‘Shuttlecock’ by Lee Yu-bin

Opening on April 24 is up-and-coming director Lee Yu-bin’s coming-of-age tale “Shuttlecock.” The film was featured at last year’s Busan International Film Festival, along with Lee’s “Han Gong-ju.” While “Han Gong-ju” won the CGV Movie Collage award, “Shuttlecock” won the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) prize. The two films shared the Citizen Reviewers’ Award at BIFF.

The film is about a teenager named Min-jae (Lee Ju-seung), whose stepsister disappears with all the money in the house after their parents die in a car accident. After spotting a YouTube clip of his sister working at a grocery store in a rural town, Min-jae embarks on a road trip to find her, with his bratty younger stepbrother Eun-ho (played by child actor Kim Tae-yong) in tow.

The film is noted for its depiction of first love and loss, and its cinematography, which captured images of different cities in the country, including Jeonju, Seosan and Dangjin.

“My Father’s Emails” (Indiestory)

‘My Father’s Emails’ by Hong Jae-hee

Also opening in theaters this month is filmmaker Hong Jae-hee’s personal documentary “My Father’s Emails,” which won the top prize at the Seoul Independent Film Festival in 2012.

The film is often compared with Canadian filmmaker Sarah Polley’s documentary “Stories We Tell,” which is about her own family history and secrets.

The documentary features the life of Hong’s late father, who sent a total of 48 emails to the director throughout the last year of his life. He shared his life story, from his experience of the Korean War (1950-1953) ― he was born and raised in Hwanghae Province, which now belongs to North Korea ― the Vietnam War (1956-1975), up to what he saw during the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Hong’s father had an estranged relationship with his two daughters. Hong’s older sister moved to the U.S. to stay away from him because, among other reasons, he suffered from alcoholism and was often physically abusive.

The film is recognized for its brave, nuanced depiction of a family’s history, which is inseparable from modern Korean history. The film opens in theaters on April 24.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)