The last day of JIFF started with "Dear Dolphin", the final Korean competition piece that I had not yet seen. This film left me feeling very ambiguous and uncertain. Reflexively, I want to write that I didn't like it- the problem is that the film's deeply personal subject matter is about failing to come to terms with grief. It's about as painful an emotion as I can think of, and if the film's goal was to impart this despondency onto my own person, I had to admit that it succeeded. As much as I would like to, I can't fault any individual aspect of the film as being insincere to its characters or larger story. Simply wishing that people did not grieve in this awful way doesn't change the reality that for many these poor choices are the only ones that really seem plausible.
My final movie of the festival, "Fist of Legend" wasn't quite so dark. A mainstream film, it has the difficult task of both wanting to discuss why violence is wrong while also having to give us a liberal dose of it to justify the film's presence. I will admit that, compared to most films that do this, "Fist of Legend" does a pretty good job. The titular television program, about middle-aged former streetfighters, is to shown to affect people and their attitudes in profoundly negative ways, and the heaviest heaping of guilt is given to the viewer who's encouraging them. The movie is still flawed- the appearance of a clear villain near the end hurts the overall message, and just the general length of the film is a bit too long to really be palatable. Still, a decent effort.
Now, as to the film festival as a whole...watching this many movies in such a short time is exhausting work. Of all the films I'd seen at the festival, I'm willing to define "My Place", "Dancing Woman" and "December" all as being genuine works of art, simply in terms of how they emotionally affected me. All of these films had a strong draining effect on me mentally, as I had to see a concept I thought I'd basically understood described in radically new terms. It's a lot to take in at once. I would have appreciated the time to get into them separately. Indeed, I can't even fully appreciate any of the short films I saw, either, simply because I had to take in so much content that it's difficult to define my relationship with the subject matter.
But such is the nature of the film festival- taking in so much new information and ideas at once, because the opportunity might not come up again. I can only hope the three films I mentioned are able to find a wider audience. If they don't, I'm glad I at least had the chance I did to see them when they did. Now, life goes back to normal, and I'll be looking and reviewing movies at a more reasonable pace. It's a terribly disconcerting feeling, having to wonder now where I'll see as much great film the rest of this year as I did at the Jeonju International Film Festival. But I suppose that, however it turns out, I'll survive.
Report by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema Report] Jiff: Final Day"
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