In Korea's male dominated society, the film industry holds an interesting position as a place where a conservative 'boys on top' mentality stubbornly persists and where emerging, feminist voices have gained a stronghold. Filmmaking is no longer the boys club it was, and each December, the Festival of Women in Film, a year-end annual event, celebrates that fact, while fostering further changes.
Organized by Korean Women in Film, a network of female film professionals, the award show acknowledges outstanding films that take a feminist perspective and awards female figures for their creative efforts, particularly those who have not gained recognition from the mainstream award shows.
The awards ceremony took place Dec. 14th, with a best actress award going to veteran performer Na Moon-hee
in "Cruel Winter Blues
". NAH was praised for her intense performance as an old mother tormented by her son, a hoodlum wanted by a rival gang.The documentary award was shared by LEE Hye-ran and the female film-cooperative 'Wom' for directing We Are Not Defeated, a moving account of female factory workers during the 1970's and their role in the Korean labor movement. It tells the story of a group of teenage girls who were branded pro-North Korean after trying to form a labor union to protect themselves from abuses and extremely low wages ($1 per 15-hour day.) The film was a critical hit at the Women's Film Festival in Seoul, last April.
The event also awarded women taking leading positions in mainstream productions where men have long dominated. This year's Women in Film Award went to JUNG Seung-hye, the producer of Radio Star
, the story of a washed-up rock and roll star, sent to work in a remote town radio station to raise money for his own bail. Sin Min-kyeong
, won the editing award for her brilliant work on "Tazza: The High Rollers" ("Tazza: The High Rollers
"), a big hit last Autumn. Yeon Mi-jeong
received an award for her contributions to the screenplay and production of "Ice Bar
", a story of a boy who sells ice-cream bars to raise money for his trip to Seoul in search of his father. JO Ok-gyeong received honors for her work on "Barefoot Ki-bong
", the tale of a mentally-handicapped young man who runs a Marathon
to raise money for his mother's false teeth. Producer, PARK Yeon-ja, won for efforts in production "Family Ties" ("The Birth of a Family
"), a hybrid drama about women who learn to love and depend on each other.
The highlight of the ceremony was the honorary award given to a veteran actress of Korean melodramas, LEE Gyeong-hee, aged 74. Her prolific career spanned 50 years, though she is known best for her '60's films, I Will Devote My Heart (1962), Jusa Lee(1963) and Too Young To Die
, Too Difficult to Live (1964).
Nigel D'Sa (KOFIC)