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Features

Varied Colours of Korean Cinema Take on COVID-19 for Chuseok Holidays

Sep 08, 2020
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
  • View332
Holiday Lineup Includes Women’s Noir, Period Action, Heartwarming Comedy, Music Film and Indie Dramas


With a particularly wet and humid summer finally behind us, the local exhibition sector is gearing up for the Chuseok holidays, one of four major box office seasons in Korea. Films like Peninsula and DELIVER US FROM EVIL managed to salvage the summer season, after several films had abandoned their release dates owing to COVID-19 fears driving viewers away, but the Chuseok season may face even more of an uphill battle owing to a recent spike in infections that has prompted to government to raise lockdown restrictions to Level 2.5 for the first time.

As of this writing, the situation has been stabilizing and will hopefully continue to do so through the month, but the effect has already been felt. What was expected to be the holiday’s top offering, Korea’s first ever space drama SPACE SWEEPERS, was recently pulled from the release by its distributor Merry Christmas for the second time, following its original summer release plans.

Nevertheless, several local films will be vying for viewers during the holidays and some smaller releases may benefit from better exposure with less competition in the marketplace. There is currently no major Hollywood film timed for release during Chuseok, but Disney’s Mulan will open on September 17 and could play strongly through the holidays due to a lack of other major tentpoles.

This week on KoBiz, we are taking a look at the very diverse lineup of films that will be trying to stake their claim on an unusual Chuseok holiday season.

The Swordsman


Director CHOI Jae-hun
Cast JANG Hyuk, KIM Hyeon-soo, Joe Taslim, JUNG Man-sik
Release Date September 23, 2020

Tae-yool (JANG Hyuk), the nation’s best sword fighter, disappears when the King is taken off the throne. Gurutai (Joe TASLIM), a member of the Qing imperial family, which is wreaking havoc in Joseon, kidnaps Tae-yool’s daughter (KIM Hyeon-soo). Left with no other option, the retired fighter must once again pick up his sword.

Following works such as The Duelist (2005), The Divine Weapon (2008) and Memories of the Sword (2015), the period swordplay action-drama returns to Korean screens this holiday season with The Swordsman. The film is the feature directing debut of CHOI Jae-hun, previously known as an art director on works such as Princess Aurora (2005). Leading man JANG Hyuk returns to the silver screen three years after ORDINARY PERSON (2017) and joining him is Indonesian action superstar Joe TASLIM, known for The Raid and The Night Comes for Us, as well as the Hollywood smash Fast & Furious 6.

Diva


Director CHO Seul-ye
Cast SHIN Min-a, LEE Yoo-young, LEE Kyu-hyung, OH Ha-nee
Release Date September 23, 2020

Top divers and best friends Yi-young (SHIN Min-a) and Soo-jin (LEE Yoo-young) are involved in a car accident, which leaves Yi-young with memory loss, while Soo-jin has gone missing. Suspicion begins to mount around Yi-young owing to the mysterious and unexplained circumstances of the crash. Seeking to cast off these suspicions, Yi-young gradually regains her courage to get back behind the wheel, but she struggles with the pressures of staying number one on the diving board and the disappearance of her friend. 

Returning to cinemas with a lead role for the first time in six years, following the romantic drama hit My Love, My Bride (2014), Korean star SHIN Min-a is casting off her melodrama persona for diving-themed noir thriller Diva. Pairing up with LEE Yoo-young and debuting woman filmmaker CHO Seul-yeDiva has drawn notice ever since it was first announced as a rare woman-driven Korean thriller. 

SAMSARA


Director MOON Jeong-yun
Cast KIM Myung-kon LEE Young-seok KIM Jun-bae
Release Date September 23, 2020

Several middle-aged Buddhist priests gather in a temple when they hear word that Do-beob, their mentor, is severely ill. As they grapple with his failing memory and their own memories of the past, they come to reflect on the true meaning of life.

Buddhist temples have provided Korea with many memorable films, whether in the indie scene (Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?, 1989; Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter And Spring, 2003) or commercial realm (Hi, Dharma, 2001) and they return this month in the upcoming drama SAMSARA, which had its world premiere last year at the Vancouver International Film Festival. This is the sophomore feature of director MOON Jeong-yun, who debuted with Gi-hwa in 2015.

Da Capo


Director SHIM Chan-yang
Cast HONG I-seok, JANG Ha-eun, SEO Young-jae
Release Date September 24, 2020

Tae-il is a singer-songwriter who makes his living composing jingles for commercials. One day, no longer able to take the many compromises his work demands of him, he throws in the towel. Reminiscing over his halcyon days in university, he decides to visit his hometown. There, he bumps into Ji-won, a member of his old band, who now teaches music. Her students have formed their own band and are about to play in a contest, so Tae-il starts to coach them. 

Three years after his charming debut Behind the Dark Night (2018), which picked up the LG HiEntech Best Korean Fantastic Film Award at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival (BiFan), director SHIM Chan-yang has returned with a very different kind of film which was selected as the opening film of this summer’s Jecheon International Music & Film Festival (JIMFF).

Stone Skipping


Director KIM Jeong-sik
Cast KIM Dae-myeong, SONG Yun-a, KIM Eui-sung
Release Date September 30, 2020

Seok-ku (KIM Dae-myeong) lives in the countryside and has an intellectual disability. He becomes friends with Eun-jin, a teenage runaway, but this soon gets him to trouble when a misunderstanding causes an altercation between the local catholic priest (KIM Eui-sung) who defends him and the shelter adviser (SONG Yun-a) who believes he has done something terrible. 

Stone Skipping, the debut film of director KIM Jeong-sik, premiered in the Panorama section of the Busan International Film Festival in 2018. The film gives prolific character actor KIM Dae-myeong a rare chance to take on a leading role. KIM’s recent credits include the thrillers Bluebeard (2017), Golden Slumber (2018) and The Drug King (2018).

Pawn


Director KANG Dae-gyu
Cast SUNG Dong-il, HA Ji-won, KIM Hee-won, PARK So-i, KIM Yun-jin
Release Date September, 2020

In early 1990s Incheon, Du-seok (SUNG Dong-il) and Jong-bae (KIM Hee-won) are a pair of debt collectors who chase down someone who owes them money and end up taking his nine-year-old daughter Seung-yi as collateral. They start to call this unexpected charge Pawn and before long a surprising bond forms between them. 

Pawn is the latest film from the hitmaking production house JK Film, responsible for The Himalayas (2015) and Confidential Assignment (2017), as well as JK YOUN’s Haeundae (2009) and Ode to My Father (2014). YOUN himself penned the screenplay for the film, with KANG Dae-gyu making his directorial debut, after helping out on several scripts for prior JK Film titles. Following her international film debut in John WOO’s ManhuntPawn also marks the return of star HA Ji-won, not seen in a local film since 2016’s Life Risking Romance.
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