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REEL Talk: Golden Year for Korean Documentaries Updated: 2014-12-05 12:42:29 KST


We talked about the success of the independent film "My love, don't cross that river" a couple of days ago and today we are going to talk about how Korean documentary films overall had a golden year this year.
For that we have film critic Jason Bechervaise joining us in the studio.


Welcome back Jason.
So you say Korean documentaries have been getting the spotlight on the local as well as the international stage in 2014?

Yes, and as we approach the end of the year, for critics, we tend to look back at the year and determine what's stood out, what hasn't, and one thing I've noticed this year, especially, is the excellent standard of documentaries, and the subsequent success they have enjoyed.

And right in the middle of enjoying that success is the film "My love, don't cross that river." It's amazing how well it's doing at the local box office.

Yes, it's ending a terrific year for these films. In a week, it's amassed 100,000 admissions, which in terms of independent cinema, is a big hit. When you look at commercial films, this is not a lot, but 10,000 admissions in the world of indie cinema in Korea is significant, so it's already a sizable hit that appears to be at the beginning of a long theatrical run.

For people who haven't seen it yet, tell us a bit more about the documentary itself. It was initially a Television documentary that was adapted into a film?

Yes, the documentary directed by Jin Mo-young initially surfaced in 2011 as part of a program on KBS, and then adapted into a film that was shown at the DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival in September. It follows this elderly couple (Cho Byung-man and Kang Kye-yeol) who have been married for 76 years, but death unfortunately becomes a sad reality they have to face.

And it's not just this film. You said Korean documentaries in general had a good year, internationally?

Yes, a very good year. One superb documentary A DREAM OF IRON directed by Kevin Kyung Kun Park that looks at South Korea's mid-twentieth-century drive towards modernization as it examines the nation's ironworks and shipyards in fascinating fashion with a rich and vibrant soundtrack. This film was invited to various festivals including Berlin and Toronto. In Berlin it won the NETPAC prize for Best Asian film along with another documentary NON-FICTION DIARY directed by JUNG Yoon-suk that goes back to the 1990s. Also worth mentioning is MANSHIN: TEN THOUSAND SPIRITS directed by Park Chan-kyong that explores the life the life of famous female shaman Kim Geum-Hwa where it was invited to the New York Asian Film Festival and the Sitges International film festival in Catalonia.

We've had successful documentaries in the past too but at the beginning of really beating blockbusters records was "Old Partner", no?

Yes for sure. That was remarkably successful back in 2008, and comparisons have been made to MY LOVE, DON'T CROSS THAT RIVER due to the touching story. OLD PARTNER directed by Lee Chung-ryoul about an 80-year-old man and his 40-year-old cow attracted over 2 million admissions making it the most popular independent film ever, and so this year isn't a surprise in a sense, because Korean documentaries have been showing a great deal of promise for a while. Another doc I'm very fond of it ARI ARI THE KOREAN CINEMA (2012) by Heo Chul, which is a must-see for Korean film fans is an extremely informative and enjoyable look at the industry and its history. CITY: HALL (2013) is another stimulating documentary by Jeong Jae-eun, but this year, I think, will go down as a significant year. So far there have been over 20 docs released in cinemas, and another one is out this week, THE HOSPICE about a hospice ward by Lee Chang-jae.

Thank you Jason for your insight. See you again next week.

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