The Korea Herald


Among Korean films at Jeonju IFF, queer films stand out

By Kim Da-sol

Published : May 3, 2023 - 17:19

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“No Heaven, But Love” (Jeonju IFF) “No Heaven, But Love” (Jeonju IFF)

This year’s Jeonju International Film Festival, which opened on April 27, has nominated films of various genres and topics to the Korean competition, but what really stood out were the queer films that were nominated.

“Of 111 Korean films that were submitted for the Korean competition section, we chose 8 feature films, two documentaries and one experimental documentary as finalists. A total of 11 films are nominated and they are either the first or second project of the filmmakers. It shows how Jeonju IFF serves as a gateway for these first-time directors,” said Moon Seok, who developed Jeonju IFF's program, adding that queer films have become a noticeable trend this year.

Director Jay Han’s second feature-length indie film, “No Heaven, But Love,” revolves around a high school student, Joo-young (Park Soo-yeon), and Ye-ji (Lee Yoo-mi), who attends the reform school at a youth detention center, and their lesbian romance.

Set in 1999, the film depicts the rough and violent atmosphere at the school in an era when corporal punishment was still legal and the harassment of junior students by senior students with violence was widely tolerated in the name of "tradition." Going through such struggles together, Joo-young and Ye-ji form a special relationship.

“Although there are dark and violent scenes in our film, the fundamental genre of our film is romance. I did not want the film to be perceived as something too serious or too scary,” Han said during a talk held after a screening at the Jeonju IFF.

Focusing on how Joo-young finds Ye-ji to be someone she can trust the most and accept everything without prejudice, Han shows that what’s most important in our society is the feeling of loving someone, not following social norms or living a standardized life with fixed biases.

“These characters are pure. What makes lesbian love difficult is not that one is struggling to find one’s identity or having inner conflict within oneself," Han said, reflecting on how for the film's characters, love is just love.

Han continued, "Not all love is easy,” adding that this line says everything about the film: “I will stay with you even if I die next year.”

“Heavy Snow” (Jeonju IFF) “Heavy Snow” (Jeonju IFF)

In director Yoon Soo-ik’s “Heavy Snow,” which was shot in 2019, high school students Soo-an (Han Hae-in) and Seol (Han So-hee) agonize over whether they should continue do to filmmaking or acting. Seol, who is already a popular screen actor, shares thoughts deep inside her heart with Soo-an and the two become close.

The film garnered attention as actor Han So-hee’s debut film, which Han Hae-in did before appearing in 2020 hit drama “The World of the Married.”

“I’m the type of person who is easily swayed by the mood of the season and the weather. What I valued during the shooting was to portray the feeling of loneliness and isolation, and that was shown by the sea in Yangyang in Gangwon Province on a snowy day,” said director Yoon during a talk held after a screening of "Heavy Snow" at the Jeonju IFF.

“I don’t mean to produce a work with certain purpose or intention, but rather stick to what I want to tell (at the time of creating the project)," Yoon continued.

“For Soo-an, Seol is a special person who not only makes her happy but also reminds her of what kind of agonies Seol must have gone through, after Soo-an also embarks on her acting career later on -- something she did not notice when both were very young,” actor Han Hae-in told the audience during the talk, adding that their romance may have been closer to a form of idolization.