|26/11||(FRI)||7:45pm||Five Fingers of Death*|
|27/11||(SAT)||2:30pm||The Bacchus Lady|
|27/11||(SAT)||7:30pm||The King of Pigs*|
|28/11||(SUN)||1:00pm||Chelsia, My Love*|
|28/11||(SUN)||4:45pm||Talk: Launching Korean Cinema onto the World Stage|
|3/12||(FRI)||7:45pm||Perfect Life *|
|4/12||(SAT)||1:00pm||Comfort Women Trilogy – The Murmuring|
|4/12||(SAT)||3:15pm||Comfort Women Trilogy – Habitual Sadness, My Own Breathing *|
|5/12||(SUN)||2:30pm||Talk: BIFF’s Mission to Nurture Asian Filmmakers|
|5/12||(SUN)||4:30pm||Talk: Industry Toolkit for Emerging Filmmakers|
|5/12||(SUN)||7:30pm||The Journals of Musan*|
|8/12||(WED)||7:45pm||The Floating Landscape*|
|12/12||(SUN)||4:00pm||Talk: Cross Currents in Hong Kong and Korean Cinema|
|30/12||(THU)||7:45pm||Too Many Ways to Be No.1|
|5/1||(WED)||7:45pm||Rolling Home with A Bull*|
|6/1||(THU)||7:45pm||Like a Virgin*|
|16/1||(SUN)||5:15pm||Masterclass on Screen Adaptation: A Conversation Between Chung Seo-kyung and Fruit Chan|
*with after-screening talk
Filmed over roughly a decade, Byun Young-joo’s landmark documentary series follows a group of Korean women who were sexually exploited by the Japanese during World War II. In The Murmuring (1995) – the first Korean documentary to receive a theatrical release in mainstream Korean cinemas – Byun follows a group of survivors who demonstrates outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul once a week, demanding the Japanese government to apologise for the pain they endured. When one of the women in the group is diagnosed with cancer, the survivors asked Byun to make Habitual Sadness (1997) to document her last days and the women’s effort to find solace as they face mortality. In the heartrending final chapter, My Own Breathing (1999), Byun brings in a former victim to interview fellow victims of Japanese sexual slavery. Not only is Byun’s trilogy an important first-hand account of wartime atrocities, it has also helped build support at home in the fight for an official apology from Japan. Though daunting in length and emotionally harrowing at times, those who see the trilogy in its entirety will also feel the women’s ability to spread joy to those around them, their loving friendship and their unwavering resilience even in everyday life.
Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” is an unusual empowerment song for the hero of this offbeat sports comedy, the directorial debut of the screenwriting team behind Conduct Zero (2002) and romance Au Revoir UFO (2004). Dong-gu (Ryu Deok-hwan) has been saving up for a sex change operation, but his low-paying part-time job and his violent former boxer father aren’t helping at all. He joins a tournament for Ssireum, a form of traditional Korean wrestling not unlike sumo, to make a quick buck when the team’s laidback coach realises that Dong-gu’s love of Madonna can help him achieve victory. A rare mainstream Korean film with a LGBTIQ+ hero, Like a Virgin is a weirdly hilarious sports film anchored by a winning performance by Ryu Deok-hwan, who gained 20 kilograms to play the unlikely wrestling hero. Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, former member of popular Japanese idol group SMAP, also has a scene-stealing cameo as Dong-gu’s teacher.
Actor Yang Ik-june makes an explosive directorial debut with this brutal and disturbing drama. Witnessing a major childhood trauma turned Sang-hoon (Yang) into a rage-filled creature who sees violence as the only solution to everything. One day, he meets a brazen high school student (Kim Kkot-bi) who dares to stand up to him, marking the beginning of an unusually beautiful friendship. Unrelentingly violent but ultimately hopeful, Yang’s meditation on the root and the devastating consequences of domestic violence was the highest-grossing homegrown independent film for five straight years, as well as a major critical success around the world, winning awards in Rotterdam, Tokyo FILMeX, the New York Asian Film Festival and the Deauville Asian Film Festival. After its success, Yang became one of the most in-demand actors in indie cinema, starring as voice actor for Yeon Sang-ho’s The King of Pigs (2011) and The Fake (2013), Zhang Lu’s A Quiet Dream (2016), as well as acclaimed Japanese films Our Homeland (2012) and Wilderness (2017).
After failing to make it big in Seoul, aspiring poet Sun-ho (Kim Young-pil) moves back to his countryside home to live with his parents. After an argument with his father, Sun-ho angrily takes the family bull to sell it. After he’s unable to sell the bull, Sun-ho is forced to tow the bull home via the long way, with his ex-lover (Kong Hyo-jin) – and the widow of his estranged best friend – along for the ride. Based on the novel by Kim Do-yeon, Yim Soon-rye’s gentle and whimsical road movie is also a heartfelt story of a man on a pilgrimage in search of freedom from his past failures. As mellow as “500 Miles”, the Peter, Paul and Mary tune featured in the film, Rolling Home with A Bull will inspire your own journey of tidying up personal burdens and search for things that spark joy.
An assistant director on Lee Chang-dong’s Poetry, actor-director Park Jung-bum began his career as one of the best and most uncompromising independent auteurs of his generation with this startling and powerful social drama. Park himself stars as Seung-chul, a North Korean defector living in a ramshackle flat outside of Seoul. He works a dead-end job as a poster layer, which often gets him beaten by rivals around the city; he doesn’t have the guts to make friends, let alone approach the girl he likes at church; and his only friend is a stray dog. Based on the true experiences of Park’s friend, a North Korean defector who died of stomach cancer only six years after defecting to South Korea, The Journals of Musan portrays a societal outcast seeking to bury his past in a rapidly modernising society where no one appears to be who they seem. The Journals of Musan premiered at the 15th Busan International Film Festival, where it won both the New Current Award and the FIPRESCI Award before earning over a dozen more prizes at film festivals around the world.
“I’m more scared of my son getting fourth place than getting hit,” says the ferocious tiger mom in director Jung Ji-woo’s captivating and equally terrifying exposé of Asian competitive culture. Tired of her son, Joon-ho, constantly getting fourth place in swimming competitions, a mother asks former Olympic hopeful Gwang-su for help. However, what she doesn’t know is that Gwang-su would turn to the same abusive methods that broke him in his youth to ensure that Joon-ho achieve victory. Co-produced by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, this subversive sports drama is an anti-thesis to the clichéd “no pain, no gain” nature of typical films in the genre. Fans of Park Hae-joon’s deceptively charming performance as a cheating husband in hit TV drama The World of the Married will be mortified by his sinister turn here as the swimming coach from hell, while young actor Jung Ga-ram impresses with his Daejong Film Award-winning turn as the troubled young athlete.
To pay for her son’s university tuition, 65-year-old So-young (Youn Yuh-jung) works as an elderly prostitute. While getting treated for an S.T.D., her doctor is attacked by his Filipina mistress over their illegitimate son. In a panic, So-young takes the boy to her home and ends up forming an unusual surrogate family with her amputee neighbour and transgender landlord while caring for the boy. Before becoming a globally recognised star with her award-winning performance in Minari (2020), Youn was already a five-decade veteran actress best known at home for her daring performances. An expert in drawing out incredible female performances with films such as Untold Scandal (2003) and The Actresses (2009), director E J-yong lends a humanist touch with an empathetic look at struggles faced by the elderly, sexual minorities, the disabled and immigrants in contemporary Korean society.
Like a Virgin co-director Lee Hae-young brings Johnnie To’s acclaimed thriller Drug War (2012) to Korea with this breathtakingly suspenseful remake. Like the original, Believer follows a team of dedicated detectives – led by Won-ho (Cho Jin-Woong) – who thinks they have an once-in-a-lifetime chance to take down the notorious drug kingpin known as Mr Lee when they capture Rak (Ryoo Joon-Yeol), a member of the drug ring. However, their obsession with stopping Mr Lee will cost them more than they can afford. Co-written by Chung Seo-kyung, longtime screenwriter for director Park Chan-wook, Lee’s take on the award-winning police procedural thriller is even more morally murky and thrilling than the original film. With cinematographer Kim Tae-kyung (A Muse, The Throne) and music composer Dalpalan (The Wailing), Lee also creates a vibrant and visually stylish palate that makes this remake uniquely his own.
Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a well-meaning Catholic priest who volunteers for a vaccine experiment in Africa. In the process, he receives a life-saving blood transfusion that also turns him into a vampire. As his thirst for blood grows, so too does his desire for Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), the abused wife of his childhood friend. Loosely based on Thérèse Raquin – Émile Zola’s novel about a doomed adulterous love affair – the deliciously macabre script by director Park Chan-wook and Chung Seo-kyung plays with traditional vampire film tropes for a provocative and darkly comical story of a repressed man’s carnal awakening and very bloody pursuit for eternal life. Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Park’s thrilling take on the horror genre is also one of his sexiest films.
*20% off discount for full-time students, senior citizens aged 60 or above, people with disabilities and the minder and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) recipients. Tickets for CSSA recipients available on a first-come-first-served basis. Concessionary ticket holders must produce evidence of their identity or age upon admission.