Monday 9 November 2015

Of Debut Features and World Premieres

A couple of reviews I've done for Filmed in Ether recently. Two films I saw at BIFF, both Korean and both really good but in different ways.

The Debut Feature.
I've been a long time fan of debut feature films from Korea, the standard seems to be consistently good and this little cracker Office is no exception. It's not like the director Hong Won-chan is straight out of film school, he is a seasoned writer but this is his debut feature and it's tight, thrilling and a great watch.
High production values and accomplished direction go beyond the expectations of a debut feature film. Hong Won-chan has skillfully woven a compelling narrative and he uses suspense and shock with a deft hand creating more than a few ‘out of your seat’ moments and some inspired twists that draw us deeper into the dark world of the office. Long lonely nights of overtime become a liability to those who are striving to get ahead and one by one unjust bullies and bitches get their just rewards......
 read more here

Ko Ah-sung's cheeky smile post Q&A defies her maniacal character from Office or does it?

The World Premiere.
Always a joy being amongst the first to see a good film, this is what I really enjoy about BIFF.
Two Rooms Two Nights is a little bit Hong Sang Soo ish but it is a whole lot more than a cheap imitation.
A great commentary on the foibles and failings  of what it is to be a man. Not all of us of course but I challenge you not to relate to any of this.

There are many jokes and funny scenarios that roll out as our two-timing anti-hero bumbles and fumbles his way around town, digging his grave deeper with each lie he tells. It’s a tragic fable of lie upon lie in order to conceal his treachery and lust for female flesh. He is a truly flawed fellow. 
Park Gyu-lee
 read more here
Chae Jeong-an

Kim Jae-wook

Regardless of any comparisons this is a really funny film and the two women blitz the guy something stupid, it's great to watch even though it may be somewhat squirmy, for the males.

14th Korean UCC International Film Festival

It's no secret that I have been residing in Seoul for almost six months now and until recently I have done no filmmaking. I've seen plenty of films, been to heaps of festivals and met many filmmakers (directors, programmers, festival organisers etc).
Well the month of October saw me change gear in this area completely. For the future I visited the east Coast town of Gisamun Beach and interviewed some locals for a documentary idea. It was a whirl wind visit for a weekend but I had been there the previous month for a recce.
Very successful and hopefully more of that later.

I also started work on two videos to submit to the 14th Korean UCC International Film Festival.
Being held at my local campus of Korea University and having some pretty good prize money on offer was all the motivation I needed.

The first film and the easiest was a reboot of Next Stop Seoulywood. All ready existing I just had to subtitle it into the Korean language. Enlisting the help of my weekend Korean tutor 원석 (Brian), who also happens to be a qualified translator, we were able to knock it off in one night. The film's only 4min or so but it is pretty dialogue heavy. Putting the actual translations into subtitles took another solid night's work and it was done.

The second film had more difficult logistics as it was made from scratch. 여기가 어디예요? (Where are we now?) was a traveling film that contained my reflections on my life in Seoul. I already had some clips that I had shot over the months that I thought would be suitable but I needed to stitch these together with some moving shots and also shoot some 'narrative backbone ' so to speak. The movement shots came from my GoPro strapped to the bike whilst I rode around the neighbourhood. My trusty partner 설화 (Seol Hwa) also shot some footage of me riding plus coached me in the narration (it was all in Korean). The last piece was to shoot some footage in my class and of one of my teachers. This was done very quickly and simply one half hour after class.
Then of course came the editing, never a quick process but very enjoyable none the less.
The result was a little bit rough, slightly esoteric, mildly kooky and with a touch of philosophy. I was happy with it and then both films were submitted.

여기가 어디예요? - where are we now?

This was the one that was selected as a finalist, I thought Next Stop Seoulywood would have been picked but just goes to show you that you can never predict when it comes to Film Festivals.

Next Stop Seoulywood - Korean reboot

Happy to say that I picked up 'Best Director' award on the day for 여기가 어디예요?. Very honoured as the jury consisted of  same talented TV drama people, advertising execs, a comedian and a rep from the Uni.

All in all a very worthwhile venture and an honour to be recognised but most of all good to be back on the horse again and looking forward to making/creating more.

on stage post awards with the Jury and fellow filmmakers and cast members

Thursday 29 October 2015

STOP - a plea to Kim Ki Duk

Not his greatest film by a long shot but still a very inspirational director.
Stop is Kim Ki Duk's plea to stop the insanity around the use of nuclear energy, even if it mean stopping the use of electricity? A rather drastic message but within the film we witness the more insipid dangers of nuclear accidents and radiation exposure. This is about the humans that survive but are exposed and what mutations/deformities will be received in the next generation. The film shows the results of two pregnant women after exposure to radiation, both are unfortunate but one is grizzly.
The major short coming of this film is that Kim Ki Duk made it by himself.
Well he had actors but no crew!
STOP - director and cast, who probably were also crew at times
I had the pleasure of hearing him and the actors speak at BIFF 2015 and one of the things he says is that he realises that there are short comings in the production values that hurt the film.
And it's true. What a difficult undertaking, it's hard enough making a low budget feature with a stripped back crew but as a one man band!!!! Wow.
Kim Ki Duk and fan doing a selfie
Australian director Ivan Seng is the only filmmaker that springs to mind that has successfully pulled this off and that was in 20012 with Toomelah which is a brilliant in it's seamless roughness.
But Stop doesn't quite cut it. Good idea, good to great acting but locations, props and even sometimes the coverage let the film down more than once or twice.
I still admire this director and I'll go along and see what he does next because when he hits it is in the big time but like all genius he is fallible and this is a case in point.

Tsubasa Nakae, principle actor post Q&A
To kim Ki Duk, STOP preaching from your soapbox and making films as a one man band and to the rest of the world STOP freezing him out of financing his films properly like a filmmaker of his standing deserves.

You can read my review for Filmed in Ether here

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Videos that are a Gas #14

I love a vid that bends your expectations and this one is a beauty.
Watch it until at least the halfway point if you can't make the end.
Things aren't always as they seem!

Monday 12 October 2015

A little bit of history - An Ode To My Father & Taklub

For Filmed in Ether, two Reviews From Biff.
One from the Philippines and the other from Korea.
Two very different films but both are dealing with major events in their respective countries.
Actually in style and how they deal with history they are poles apart.
Taklub from Brillante Mendoza is gritty realism dealing with the aftermath of the super typhoon Haiyan. It is a empathetic observation of life after a disaster where the psychological scares are greater than the physical wreckage. The setting is Tacloban which was literally leveled through wind, rain and waves and the film follows a handful of survivors. It is a far from sensational observation of the heartbreak involved with picking up the pieces.

This is the life of a devastated community waiting to be relocated, waiting for life to be returned to normal, waiting in vain for promised relief beyond daily rations and a canvas roof over their heads. They live with the guilt of a survivor, the fear of the next storm bringing a new tsunami and the want of life’s basics and wanting a place that they can call home.
 read the full review here

Brillante Mendoza

Ode To My Father from Yoon Je-kyoon differs greatly in that it spans Korean history from the end of the civil war, or at least when there was a truce on the fighting, right up to the present. It's epic in scale, in production value and in box office takings. The treatment of the history is a lot more stylised and sentimental. This is a tear jerker of a film.

Ode to My Father is the story of one man, Yoon Deok-soo (Hwang Jung-min) who dedicates his life to the service of his family and the nation after his father gets left behind in the mass evacuation from the northern Korean port of Hungnam toward the end of the war. His life is hard and his tales are epic but some say that it is a romanticised and sycophantic rewriting of history. Certainly right wing elements of this society have hijacked the film for their own purposes. When it was released earlier this year, the director in fact stopped doing interviews because the focus was solely on this subject.
 read the full review here

Yoon Je-kyoon

Both are fine films but in very different ways and they both come from very fine filmmakers.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Brillante does the Possessed - SAPI

A little look back having freshly seen his latest film Taklub, a tribute to the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.
He's the poster boy of the Filipino Indy Film scene, the man who has marched on Cannes, the darling of the Festival circuit, he's the man who launched Mercedes Cabral onto the world stage.
Brillante Mendoza!!!

....he's so more than any of this and I apologise for such a shit opening.

Wanna watch a great director, with an illustrious filmography, who has consistency, is prolific and tells a cracker of a tale? Look no further!
Thy Womb (and here) didn't make MIFF but was screened in Brisbane and I think ACMI screened it as a one off.
Well this one, Sapi, his first horror may make it to Australia but probably won't!
but it did make it to Busan in 2013.

I'm a bit partial to a possession film and Sapi appeases in spades.
But this is not just your ordinary fright fest. The parallel narrative that drives the film is a great insight into the machinations of Network TV news alla Manila. In fact this is the true horror in this film. The lengths and means to get ratings, the demands placed on employees, whether real or perceived, the boardroom meetings and the Network damage control all send a chill down the spine.
Are these the ones who a truly possessed?
You find these things out as you watch two rival news teams scramble for the story of a mass possession. They uncover and witness some pretty frightening stuff on the ground and then digest and package it for nightly consumption. You want to be pretty careful when dealing with the spirit world and those with less scruples slowly become affected or infected. The impact of exploitation is great and the consequences are dramatic.

Snakes, vaginas and demons always make a pretty frightening mix and this film certainly has its moments but the thing I love the most is the very brave ending. There are more questions than answers, not every thread can be neatly sewn up and the film finishes abruptly, but that's OK. Actually it's more than OK, I kinda loved it but I couldn't really gauge the reaction of the others in the cinema. I think we were all a bit shocked.
For a first foray into horror, this film holds its own, it's not your average possesion flick but that comes as no surprise because it is made from not your average director.
Look out next time the storm and heavy rains come visiting your town, you never  now what lies within the tempest.

Thursday 8 October 2015


File:Veteran - Korean Movie-tp1.jpg

Fighting the corruption within South Korea's chaebols 재벌 (family run corporations).
This is a take down film, lopping of the tall poppy and championing the under dog.
The latest film from Ryoo Seung-Wan , the man who bought us The Berlin File
The action is great and a bit of fun too, though there are some truly grueling moments of cruelty.
But for me, the performances are the standout.

Veteran-Hwang Jung-Min.jpg Veteran-Yoo Ah-In.jpg Veteran-Yu Hae-Jin.jpg Veteran-Oh Dal-Su.jpg Veteran-Jang Yoon-Ju.jpg
Hwang Jung-Min Yoo Ah-In Yu Hae-Jin Oh Dal-Su Jang Yoon-Ju
Det. Seo Do-Cheol Jo Tae-Oh Director Choi Team Leader Oh Miss Bong

 These are just a few of the cast, its a very fine ensemble
"Yoo Ah-in, playing the character of Jo Tae-oh — the uber rich, spoilt son of a chaebol — is the counterpoint and he certainly excels himself in the way that Willem Dafoe or Dennis Hopper would be proud. As the untouchable son, he takes to the portrayal of mean, cruel, amoral asshole like a duck to water and he makes you squirm with discomfort. Often it is too much but this is the director’s call and the actor obeys with relish, all with a wickedly delicious grin. Women, men, dogs, and his deputy are all treated like shit when it takes his fancy. His father is the only person that he fears and possibly respects. Some very uncomfortable viewing but brilliant acting it certainly is."

You can read more of my review for Filmed in Ether here
It's run in Korea is at an end, though it was shown at BIFF 2015 and it is currently showing in Australia. Well worth a visit!