Haeundae-gu, Busan, Republic of Korea,
Jae-wu has secured a berth in the final roster of the Korean national kendo team qualifiers, although he is viewed as a contender doomed from the start. When he eventually has to meet the rising star Tae-su, with whom he has some history, his sword slices through the air aimlessly, having lost its purpose. He cannot forget that Tae-su killed his elder brother when they were adolescents, and it is even more unacceptable that Tae-su was able to learn kendo during his stay in the youth detention facility and go on to become one of the most talented young sportsmen. Jae-wu is unable to let go of his demons, yet the two will have to spend three weeks together at a training center.
Iron Mask (2023) is a Korean film directed by Kim Sung-hwan that won the Best Korean Fantastic Film award at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival earlier this year. While the film seems like a typical sports film at first glance, it actually subverts the genre expectations and delivers a complex and nuanced psychological drama. Instead of following the predictable sports movie arc, Iron Mask explores the themes of identity, trauma, and redemption through the lens of competitive fencing. The film skillfully portrays the inner struggles of Jaewoo as he faces his opponents, his past, and himself. Joo Jong-hyuk, who also starred in Because I Hate Korea, the opening film of the Busan International Film Festival, gives a captivating performance as the mysterious and troubled protagonist.