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Ko - production in Busan
  • The Varied Colors of Korea Invade HK for Awards, Festival and Market
  • by Pierce Conran /  Mar 27, 2018
  • Busy Week for Korean Films and Film Professionals at HKIFF, HK Filmart and HAF

    Early spring welcomed the return of the Hong Kong International Film Festival (HKIFF) and its associated events as Korean films and film professionals were once again out in force. Korean artists received four awards at the Asian Film Awards in Macau, a Korean project earned a prize at the Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum, new projects were introduced and sold at the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market, and several Korean titles were presented among the varied programs of HKIFF.

    Broad Business at HK Filmart

    The Korean Film Council (KOFIC - Chairman, OH Seok Geun) led a wide delegation of Korean film outfits, spanning distribution, production, visual effects, regional commissions and festivals, as they manned an umbrella stand at the center of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wan Chai during the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market, which ran from March 19 to 22.

    Korean distributor Showbox had success with their recent Lunar New Year title Detective K: Secret of the Living Dead. The third installment in the period investigation action-comedy franchise, the film was bought by iQiyi (China), Movie Cloud (Taiwan), Edko Films (Hong Kong and Macau), Twin (Japan), Viva Communications (the Philippines), CJ E&M HK (Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Thailand) and Encore (worldwide in-flight rights). The film drew in 2.44 million viewers (USD 18.39 million) earlier this year. Meanwhile, Showbox is also shopping several upcoming titles, including the horror film GONJIAM: Haunted Asylum and their summer tentpole The Drug King, a 1970s-set gangster drama with SONG Kang-ho in the lead.

    Specialty distributor Mirovision entered Filmart with a slew of new projects for sale. Among those was the black comedy Backstreet Noir by Dirty Blood (2012) and Wonderful Nightmare (2015) director KANG Hyo-jin, which follows a man who earns his keep taking beatings for other people. LIM Jin-seung’s Puzzle, which was released domestically on February 22 and screened at the Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival this month, follows a man who is suddenly accused of murder while working abroad to support his family. The company is also repping the UK-Taiwan co-production The Receptionist by director Jenny LU, which explores the goings-on of an illegal massage parlor in London through the eyes of a Taiwanese receptionist.

    The Singapore-listed content production company mm2 Asia announced during Filmart that it will launch a virtual-reality immersive experience exhibition based on YEON Sang-ho’s smash hit TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016). The ride will tour throughout Asia in the second half of the year, with planned stops in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, while the company hopes to end the tour in Korea. The staging costs of the project are budgeted at USD 45 million.

    In the seminar portion of this year’s Filmart, film producer KANG Hae-jung, the CEO of Filmmaker R & K, took part in a ‘Filmmaker Spotlight’ on ‘Producing a high-quality Korean film’. She discussed the challenges of making RYOO Seung-wan’s The Battleship Island (2017) and how Korea has been dealing with the issue of screen monopolies in the nation’s multiplexes.

    Award-winning Korean Project at HAF

    Also running alongside the market was this year’s Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF), which invited directors and producers from across the continent to pitch a wide spectrum of new projects to potential sale agents, co-producers, investors and film festival programmers. Among this year’s hopeful was one Korean project, the thriller The Big Picture from director E J-yong. Director E, known for Untold Scandal (2003) and most recently The Bacchus Lady (2016), was in town with his producer Jason CHAE, the president of Korean sales agent and producer Mirovision.

    The Big Picture walked away from HAF with the G2D Post-Production Award, an in-kind award sponsored by WIP Lab. E’s film will receive USD 15,000 for a film sound package that includes Foley, sound design, dialogue editing, atmosphere and a final mix support. The project is a remake of the French thriller L’Homme qui voulait vivre sa vie (‘The Man Who Wanted to Live His Life’), and is based on the novel ‘The Big Picture’ by author Douglas Kennedy, which follows a high-powered lawyer who murders his wife’s lover and begins to take on his identity.

    Meanwhile, the Network of Asian Fantastic Films project market from the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival was also on hand to present the NAFF Award during HAF, which went to the Indonesian-French co-production IMAH (working title), which is now invited to participate in this summer’s NAFF event in Bucheon.

    Korean films at HKIFF

    Meanwhile, during the festival, which will continue to run until April 4, four recent Korean films were invited to screen. These included Hong Sangsoo’s Grass, KIM Dae-hwan’s The First Lap (2017), SHIN Dong-seok’s Last Child (2017) and PARK Ki-yong’s Old Love (2017).

    One of the ‘New Currents’ competitors from last year’s Busan International Film Festival, SHIN Dong-seok’s Last Child, was invited to the ‘Young Cinema Competition’. It also screened last month in the ‘Forum’ section of the Berlin International Film Festival. The film details the lives of a couple that copes with the death of their son and forms a bond with one of his classmates.

    The fifth pairing between director and star Hong and KIM Min-hee, and the director’s 22nd work overall, the black and white drama Grass also debuted last month in the ‘Forum’ program in Berlin and features in the ‘Master’ lineup in HK. KIM stars as a writer who eavesdrops on her fellow patrons in a Seoul cafe.

    KIM Dae-hwan’s critically acclaimed second feature The First Lap is invited to the ‘Indie Power’ lineup. The drama was one of last year’s Jeonju Cinema Projects, commissioned by the Jeonju International Film Festival. The film, which earned the Best Emerging Director Prize at last year’s Locarno International Film Festival, focuses on a long-term but unmarried couple that faces pressure to tie the knot while visiting each of their respective parents.

    Finally, PARK Ki-yong’s new drama Old Love, which focuses on former lovers who reunite in Seoul, is screening in the ‘Global Vision’ section. The film began its festival run in Busan and also screened in Berlinale’s ‘Forum’ lineup in February.
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