It feels odd to see Korean movie posters in foreign countries. Korean cinema hasn’t become an international phenomenon in the way K-pop or Korean television dramas have, but these posters at foreign movie houses prove that the world’s interest in Korean film is increasing. These posters arouse a feeling different from what we feel upon hearing of the awards won by Korean movies at overseas film festivals; the posters testify that the Korean film is seen by many regular people at their local cinemas.
While the Korean movies and filmmakers honored with awards at such acclaimed fests as the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival aren’t to be taken lightly, there are other meaningful events that display the appeal of Korean cinema in not-so-grand ways. Korean Film Festivals featuring made-in-Korea movies only are held across the world, and they are increasing remarkably in Europe, the home of film and festivals.
One good example is the London Korean Film Festival that celebrates its 13th year this fall. Co-sponsored by the Korean Cultural Centre UK and the Korean Film Council, the festival will be held in London and its vicinity in October and November. Last year, more than 60 movies were screened for about two weeks and a touring screening followed in Nottingham and Manchester after the main event wrapped up.
The Paris Korean Film Festival is a cinema fest no less meaningful than the London festival. Since 2006, FFCP has been held annually in the French capital, sponsored by Association 1886, the non-governmental Korea-French Association for Video Culture Exchange. It has emerged as one of the fastest growing events of its kind over the past few years and drew as many as 15,000 spectators last year. The festival takes place in the Champs-Élysées neighborhood each October, scheduled to open around that time this year. At the moment, organizers are busy selecting the works to be shown.
In Italy, Florence Korea Film Fest serves as a two-way exchange between the two countries as it not only screens Korean movies but also introduces Italian cinematic works to Korea. Hosted by the Taegukgi Toscana Korea Association, the festival is held in March or April every year. Actor Ha Jung-woo attracted media attention last March at the 16th Florence Korea Film Fest as he won a cultural award from the City of Florence as well as an honorary citizenship.
In addition to the festivals mentioned above, Korean film fests of various scales entertain viewers in Germany, Spain, Belgium, and elsewhere throughout Europe. Even just 10 or 20 years ago, it was hard to imagine that festivals specializing in Korean film would ever exist in Europe, the birthplace of arts that boasts of history and tradition, and the countries of Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, and Federico Fellini. Who could have guessed that the descendants of those masters would be impressed and awed by the works of such Korean directors as Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and Lee Chang-dong?
Written by Kim Daniel