The Korea Herald


With smartphones, ordinary people can turn mundane life into cinema


Published : Oct. 9, 2011 - 11:10

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BUSAN (Yonhap News) - Ordinary people presented iPhone-made shorts on the sidelines of the Busan International Film Festival over the weekend, demonstrating even a 12-year-old can venture into movie-making as the high-tech handset lowers the threshold.

Despite featuring no film luminaries and drawing much smaller audiences than the festival's official selections, these smartphone flicks show how amateurs can take advantage of technology to turn their mundane life into cinematic art.

"The biggest advantage of smartphones is that it is a phone, not a camera. It is always in your pocket," Lee Ho-jae, a professional movie director, told audiences at Haeundae Beach. Lee led iPhone movie-making classes for amateurs over the past year in Seoul.

Because people carry their phones with them all the time, a smartphone camera is always at their fingertips whenever they want to capture everyday life on a whim, Lee said. 

In one of the iPhone shorts screened at Haeundae Beach on Saturday, a recent college graduate humorously depicted her family's collaborative cooking time during Chuseok, the biggest autumn holiday in Korea, unlike many other Confucian-influenced Korean households that see cooking as a female task.

"The assignment was to shoot something you can watch with your family during Chuseok," said 24-year-old Song Ji-hyun.

"What is unique about my family is that we all do our parts in cooking. So rather than getting stressed out about working in the

kitchen during the holidays, we look forward to it and enjoy it."

The 5-minute-long comedy on family union and communal cooking elicited laughs and applause from the audience.

Smartphones can also be a great medium for sharing personal stories. One short film shot and edited on Apple Inc.'s smartphone was an example of a journey to reconnect with loved ones.

"I never sit down with my son to have conversations," said Kim Seok-hyun, a 43-year-old manager of a solar energy company in Seoul. "For the movie, we decided to sit and talk about our dreams."

Kim was behind the camera as he interviewed his son Tae-joon.

Then the 12-year-old became an iPhone auteur recording the dad speaking about his dreams and revealing his wishes for his son, betraying his fatherly affection in the process.

From one shot to the next, the father-son dialogue in disguise of a series of interviews was possibly more honest and intimate than their real life conversations.

Sponsored by telecom company KT Corp., the amateur iPhone movies screened for the first time this year in Busan catered to the Korean cineastes with a penchant for the cutting-edge digital technology. 

The event also reflected the fast-growing mobile market in South Korea. Since the iPhone spurred a smartphone boom two years ago, more than one third of the population made feature-packed handsets part of their life.

Professional film directors are closely following new trends in digital technology, which are expected to emerge in greater diversity as smartphones go mainstream. 

The number of smartphone users in South Korea is expected to hit 20 million next month, out of around 50 million mobile-phone owners here.

Even "Oldboy" auteur Park Chan-wook won an award at this year's Berlin International Film Festival with "Night Fishing," a fantasy shot entirely on the iPhone.

Lee, the director of the 2009 local box-office success "Scam,"

said he believes digital features in smartphones, such as voice calls, gyroscopes, light and other sensors, will push cine artists to create new pictures.

But the new mobile devices might have larger implications for the film industry as they reshape conventional environments for movie screening.

"Traditionally, movies were shown at movie theaters. But carrying tablets and smartphones in one's pocket is like having a personal movie theater at your fingertips," he said.

His first iPhone movie, "Vertical Limit," chronicles a day of a young woman who is an iPhone user. Shot at a vertical angle, the way most people hold their smartphones, the 5-minute short was an attempt to explore how users can interactively participate in the readymade film, Lee said.

For the iPhone movie available on YouTube, viewers have a choice to watch it vertically or horizontally on their tablet computers or smartphones. The widescreen angle shows everyday scenes at a perpendicular angle while the vertically long screen makes the audience aware of the digital medium.

"For me, smartphone movies will take a separate track from the commercial movies I do for a living," he said. "Whenever there's a new idea, I can experiment with smartphones just like ordinary people can."