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Hong Sang-soo's Film Vies for Berlin Award

2008/02/11 | 472 views | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

While Korea celebrated Seollal on Feb. 7, on the far side of the globe, Germany greeted cineaste and cinephiles from all over the world for the 58th edition of the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale), which runs through Sunday. This year, Hong Sang-soo's "Night and Day" competes for the Golden Bear award while three other Korean films make their mark at one of the most exciting and large-scale film events.

"Night and Day" is Hong's eighth feature film and it is the first time the acclaimed director competes at the Berlinale. Known as an innovative minimalist, Hong had competed in Cannes with "Woman is the Future of Man" (2004) and "Tale of Cinema" (2005). Before flying to Berlin, he stopped by Geneva earlier this month because "Woman on the Beach" (2006) was invited to the Black Movie Festival.

A recipient of the 2005 Korean Film Council Production Support for Art Films, "Night and Day" was mostly shot in Paris. It is about a successful artist (Kim Young-ho) who, about to be arrested for smoking marijuana, flees to France, leaving behind his beloved wife (Hwang Soo-jung). He meets a pretty art student (Park Eun-hye), and falls head over heals for the beauty and mystery of Paris and the young woman.

For the makers of "Night and Day", however, it was a rocky road to Berlin. There were deep financial hardships, and it became recently known that leading lady Park Eun-hye volunteered to star in the film with no guarantees given.

Park said in a statement that appearing in Hong's film itself was a great honor. The popular actress, who became well known through the hit TV series "Jewel in the Palace", had auditioned ― and failed ― thrice for Hong's previous works. She finally makes her big screen debut with Hong's piece.

"Night and Day" will be released in Korea Feb. 28.

Three other films have been invited to various sections of the Berlinale. In the Panorama division, newcomer Juhn Jai-hong presents his feature debut piece "Beautiful", which is about how a woman's mesmerizing beauty results in her own tragic downfall. Celebrated director Kim Ki-duk, who also produced the work, wrote the original story. Juhn has made a name for himself with his short films, among which "Fish" competed at Venice last year.

"Beautiful" will come to theaters here Feb. 14.

In addition, the documentary "Grandmother's Flower" by Moon Jeong-hyeon is being screened in the Forum section. The diaries of Mun's late grandmother reveal not only secrets of his family's past, but embody all the tragedies of Korea's modern history.

Last but not least, Lee J.P'.s short film "Light My Fire" is part of Berlinale's Generation 14 Plus. The 30-minute flick is about a North Korean boy who loves Jim Morrison's rock music and escapes the country with a guitar to come to South Korea.

Korean cinema is taking part of the world film feast, with the Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF) and Korean Film Council hosting a party and major Korean film companies participating in Berlin's European Film Market. On sale include last year's box office hits like "Le Grand Chef" (SHOW EAST) and critically acclaimed pieces like "Happiness" (Showbox/Mediaplex).

Particularly notable in the Film Market is the participation of INDIESTORY. It is the first time for Korea's leading distributor of independent films, and the opportunity is hoped to heighten attention to domestic independent films. Movies for sale include "Life Track", a Chinese-Korean co-production that won the top prize at the 2007 PIFF, and as the omnibus film "Fantastic Parasuicides", which screened in Busan and the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

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