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Auteurs Return to Berlinale as Sellers Tease New Content at EFM

Feb 27, 2018
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
  • View2495
6 Korean Films and 6 Korean Sales Companies Descend on Berlin

The Berlin International Film Festival closed the curtains on its 68th edition on February 25, as it handed out its Bear awards following the warmest Berlinale in recent memory. While Korean films were absent from the competition and those in other sections didn’t feature on this year’s awards rosters, Korean cinema was once again prominently positioned across the festival’s programs and especially within the corridors of the European Film Market (EFM), which began on the same day as the festival (February 15) and concluded two days earlier.

South Korea was represented by six films this year in Berlinale, which included four feature-length works (among them two world premieres and two films first screened at the Busan International Film Festival last October) as well as a pair of experimental shorts. Hong Sangsoo, KIM Ki-duk and PARK Ki-yong all returned to the festival with their latest films while new director SHIN Dong-seok and established artists SONG Sang-hee and Jane Jin Kaisen screened works for the first time in Berlin.

Prolific filmmaker Hong Sangsoo scored a consecutive invite to the festival with his 22nd film Grass (and his sixth overall), which saw him return to the ‘Forum’ section 21 years after his debut The Day a Pig Fell into a Well (1996) screened there in 1997. Shot in black and white and sporting a svelte 66-minute running time, the film reunites him once more with KIM Min-hee, who featured in all three of his films last year, including On the Beach at Night Alone (2017), which earned her the Silver Bear for Best Actress from the 67th Berlinale. 

KIM plays a writer in a cafe who eavesdrops on the troubles of other patrons at the establishment, played by Hong regulars such as SEO Young-hwa (On the Beach at Night Alone), JUNG Jin-young (Claire's Camera), KIM Sae-byuk (The Day After, 2017), KEY Joo-bong (Right Now, Wrong Then, 2015), AHN Jae-hong (Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, 2013) and LEE Yoo-young (Yourself and Yours, 2016).

Following a 14-year absence from Berlin, KIM Ki-duk was invited with a new film to Berlinale for a fourth time with his 23rd feature Human, Space, Time and Human. KIM earned the Silver Bear for Best Director back in 2004 for his film Samaritan Girl. After not releasing a new title in 2017, the busy filmmaker put together the most high profile cast of his career for his latest work, a fantastical and violent meditation on the human condition. Notable Korean and Japanese performers featured in the film, including Mina FUJII (My New Sassy Girl, 2016), JANG Keun-suk (You're My Pet, 2011), AHN Sung-ki (Revivre, 2015), LEE Sung-jae (Public Enemy, 2002), RYOO Seung-bum (The Berlin File, 2013) and Joe ODAGIRI (Dream, 2008).

KIM was also in town for the 2nd edition of the Asian Brilliant Stars Awards, as he was invited to sit in as president of this year’s jury. Three Korean films were featured among the nominees, including KIM Hyun-suk’s human comedy-drama I Can Speak (2017), LEE Joon-ik’s period trial drama Anarchist from Colony (2017) and Hong Sangsoo’s The Day After (2017), which debuted in competition at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The Day After is also heavily nominated at next month’s Asian Film Awards, where it is featured in the categories for Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress (once again for frequent collaborator KIM Min-hee).

Director PARK Ki-yong was also back in Berlin, this time after a 16 year interval, with his latest work Old Love (2017). A tale of former lovers cautiously rekindling a flame in modern Seoul after decades apart, the film debuted at the Busan International Film Festival. PARK previously participated in the festival with his first two films Motel Cactus (1997) and Camel(s) (2002). The film screened in the ‘Forum’ program.

In the same section was SHIN Dong-seok’s debut film Last Child (2017), another Busan International Film Festival premiere and a recipient of the Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) Post-Production Fund support. SHIN’s work follows the grieving parents who form a bond with the schoolboy who was saved by their son prior to his death by drowning.

Meanwhile, the ‘Forum Expanded’ section featured a pair of experimental video works from established artists. SONG Sang-hee’s Come Back Alive Baby (2017) and Jane Jin Kaisen’s Strange Meetings (2017), a joint Danish-Korean production. The works were both featured as part of a group exhibit at Akademie der Künste am Hanseatenweg.

The Korean Film Council (KOFIC, Chairman OH Seok Geun) was on hand to support Korean filmmakers and film professionals during the festival and market. KOFIC manned the Korean Film Center booth on the ground floor of the Martin Grobius-Brau, where they facilitated exchanges between Korean and global film professionals. Additionally, on Monday, February 19 they hosted the annual Korean Film Night at the Korean Cultural Center in Postdamer Platz.

Korean sales companies visited EFM with their new lineups, ranging from blockbuster titles down to specialist and arthouse fare. Most visible during the market this year was Finecut, whose booth was just two doors down from the KOFIC stand in the MGB. The company held back-to-back meetings with buyers and programmers, bolstered by a lineup which featured three of the four Korean features in the Berlinale lineup this year: Last Child, Grass and Human, Space, Time and Human. Also drumming up excitement among market attendees were two of their upcoming titles: LEE Chang-dong’s long-awaited return Burning with YOO Ah-in and Steven YEUN, which many hope to see in the Cannes lineup this spring; and the upcoming Joseon Era-set creature feature Monstrum.

Also in MGB was the specialty distributor Mirovision, presenting the revenge drama BROTHERS IN HEAVEN, which was snatched up by buyers in Asia, and a range of new horror titles (NIGHTSCAPE, 2017; Wol-ha : Very Bad Moon Rising, 2017; and The DMZ, 2017) by genre filmmaker OH In-chun.

Meanwhile, across the road in the Marriott Hotel, CJ Entertainment, M-Line Distribution, Showbox and CONTENTS PANDA put forward their latest lineups for buyers. CJ presented a special promo of their upcoming action title Take Point from The Terror, LIVE (2013) from director KIM Byung-woo, which stars HA Jung-woo (Tunnel, 2016) and LEE Sun-kyun (A Hard Day, 2013) and features a futuristic covert ops operation tale told through Korean and English dialogue.

M-Line Distribution’s slate was led by the youth drama Little Forest with KIM Tae-ri (The Handmaiden, 2016). From director YIM Soon-rye (Forever the Moment, 2008), the film is poised to open well this weekend at the domestic box office. Showbox’s main title was their flagship summer release The Drug King from Inside Men (2015) director WOO Min-ho, which features SONG Kang-ho (A Taxi Driver, 2017) as a rising drug lord in Busan in the 1970s. CONTENTS PANDA presented their mystery thriller The Vanished, a remake of the Spanish film The Body (2014). Featuring KIM Gang-woo (The Taste of Money, 2012) and KIM Sang-kyung (Memories of Murder, 2003), the film had a well-received market screening in EFM.

Elsewhere in the market, JUNG Byung-gil, director of action title The Villainess (2017), a midnight screening of last year’s Cannes Film Festival, was announced as the director of English-language project Afterburn. Staring Gerald Butler as a treasure hunter in Europe in the near future, the action title was launched by the Capstone Group at EFM.

As always, Korean cinema managed to establish its presence in Berlin and boost its profile over the near future as the various Korean films invited to screen in Berlin will likely receive invitations to several upcoming global events while the various deals that were sealed in the market should guarantee a steady flow of Korean content around the world’s markets over the coming months.
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