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Sydney Film Fest to spotlight Korean films

Sydney Film Festival, which kicks off Wednesday, will this year host a new program spotlighting “off-mainstream” contemporary Korean cinema, the festival organizers announced Monday.

Titled “Korea on the Verge: Social Faultlines in Korean Cinema,” the program will screen five films by Korean directors.

“Alice in Earnestland,” director Ahn Gooc-jin’s first feature and winner of the best Korean feature prize at last year’s Jeonju International Film Festival, is a political satire portraying a woman, played by singer-actress Lee Jung-hyun, who struggles to pay for her comatose husband’s care and vows revenge on the societal system that has failed her. 

Singer-actress Lee Jung-hyun plays Soo-nam in “Alice in Earnestland.” (CGV Arthouse)
Singer-actress Lee Jung-hyun plays Soo-nam in “Alice in Earnestland.” (CGV Arthouse)

In “Non Fiction Diary,” a documentary-style film on the notorious 1994 serial killings by a gang that shook the nation, director Jung Yoon-suk examines the notions of crime, freedom and social control in the mid-90s through the testimonies of witnesses.

Director Park Hong-min’s 2013 feature “A Fish” is a neo-noir mystery in which incomprehensible events occur to a protagonist who is a professor of logic and metaphysics. The character is informed one day that his wife has become a shaman, and at a certain point becomes aware of his own death.

“Love and ... ” is a 2015 omnibus film by Chinese director Zhang Lu featuring acclaimed Korean actors Ahn Sung-ki and Park Hae-il, actress Moon So-ri and rising actress Han Ye-ri. The film depicts the clash of creative egos on a film set, offering a “coy deconstruction of the Korean film industry” according to critics.

Park Hae-il stars in
Park Hae-il stars in "Love and..." (Smile Ent)

Also featured at the Sydney Film Festival is director Kim Kyung-mook’s “Stateless Things,” which was previously invited to the Venice Film Festival in 2011. The film presents two “stateless” characters -- a North Korean defector working under an abusive boss and a man being held as a rich businessman’s sex slave.

“Korean cinema remains in many ways the liveliest in East Asia, but the program has gone a little off-mainstream,” said the festival’s guest programmer and program curator Tony Rayns in a press statement released by the festival.

“These edgy, combative films by fearless indie filmmakers don’t paper over the cracks in Korean society, but expand them into social fault lines,” said Rayns, who is a London-based filmmaker and critic known for his expertise in East Asian Cinema.

The “Korea on the Verge” program is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Korea Foundation.

Rayns will host talks on the interpretation of Korean indie cinema on June 15 at the SFF Hub at Sydney’s Town Hall.

The 63rd Sydney Film Festival taking place from June 8-19 offers a selection of films sourced from international film fests such as Cannes, Sundance, Toronto and the Berlinale, alongside Australian productions. Its flagship program is the Official Competition, which features 12 films and presents the winner at the festival’s closing ceremony on June 19.

By Rumy Doo (

Korea Herald daum