Toronto Korean Film Festival
The Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF) wrapped up Sunday night with the double bill of Park Chan Wook’s Sympathy for Lady Vengeance 친절한 금자씨 and Old Boy 올드보이 (film reviews coming soon). I thought it was an interesting touch for the closing film to be perhaps the one best known to Western audiences. But then there were plenty of touches to the film festival that made attending it fun! As much as I enjoyed the films – and several rocked – I found the friendly staff and volunteers really set TKFF apart from other festivals I’ve attended. Before I get into the review, I want to commend them all on a wonderful festival and hope that it’s just the first of many!
What the Toronto Korean Film Festival did well
I really can’t say enough about the fabulous TKFF staff and volunteers. They made such a great impression. I’m a people-person so friendly people rock my world, there is simply nothing better. I caught a summer cold near the start of the festival which meant I didn’t get any film reviews out during TKFF as I’d planned (yuck, so tired I couldn’t write) – stay tuned for several to come soon! Arg, I hated being ill and tired when there was so much to do but even as I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t really feel like being social, attending TKFF made me feel just a bit better because I was always greeted with smiles. There is nothing like friendly people to perk up your spirit!.
Like I mentioned earlier, I loved the extra touches that the organizers have added to the festival. Dressing up as zombies for Horror Night. Writing the audience’s names in Korean calligraphy for the screening of Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring 봄 여름 가을 겨울 그리고 봄. Having candy and chicken masks kids could colour for Leafie: A Hen in the Wild 마당을 나온 암탉. These touches add so much to the personality of the festival! I absolutely loved the opportunity that festival goers had to take a picture with the ‘zombies’. I may not have availed myself of it – not a fan of cameras – but it was a fabulous idea. Whoever did their makeup rocks! Wow, it looked professional – just like they should be on a movie set… hmm…
I went to all the screenings so I saw the same promo videos and advertisements before each. I have to say, I totally loved the animation promo for TKFF that’s shown before each screening! It was fun recognizing different films from it as the festival progressed. Some I knew beforehand but it was fascinating and never got old.
The fundraiser in me (my day job) who’s both organized and volunteered at several events over the years thought they did a wonderful job at recognizing, thanking and promoting their sponsors and community partners. I was impressed before the festival even started by the fact that they even had so many quality sponsors because I know how hard it is to get sponsors for an inaugural event or festival. Kudos!
The option to purchase Korean refreshments – I love that popcorn, I used to buy giant bags of it in Korea – was a nice touch too! Especially with the weather being so warm, it was nice to be able to buy drinks on site – and Korean ones too. Plus, I got to try blueberry aloe juice which I loved.
And of course, they choose an interesting assortment of Korean films to showcase. I loved the theme nights and hope this is something they continue to do moving forward. By screening a wide variety of genres and films, they not only offer something for everyone but also allow Toronto film goers to experience Korean films and genres they might not otherwise have tried. I’ve talked about this before but it bears repeating as it’s hugely important and one of the best parts of TKFF. I won’t mention anything about specific films because reviews are forthcoming but will say, they choose some amazing flicks.
Interesting thoughts from TKFF
Opening night had an opening remarks speech by Minna Rhee, a Global News Lifestyle Reporter. She said something that stuck with me, I’m paraphrasing here but basically ‘while many Canadians don’t know much about Korean films, they are well-respected in the film industry around the world.’ This is true in my experience as I know a few people (internationally) who’ve done their Master’s or PhD on Korean film and they often grace major international film festivals like Cannes and TIFF. However, if I was to mention most popular Korean film names (in English or Korean), directors or actors to most Canadians, I’d be met with blank stares. Many of my friends – and of course, you, my lovely readers – are the exception as we love Korean culture but Korean films aren’t mainstream yet. Let’s hope festivals like TKFF can help change that!
An interesting note on the demographics of the festival attendees – most seem weirdly un-Korean. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some Koreans in attendance as I heard Korean conversation each night and not just from the organizers but the audience seemed more representative of Toronto than I expected. And while the audience definitely trended younger for most of the films, there was a variety of ages too. I wonder if they are keeping track of the demographics – it would make for an interesting after-festival survey. But perhaps that’s just me, I always find demographics fascinating. This is a good thing though as it does show that there is some interest in Korean film, now let’s just fan that flame.
Things that could be improved
Signage for lineups was often hidden by those in the lineups. This is a very small point but as I was often in line early and by myself, I people-watched. Some people seemed a little confused by which lineup they should be in (there were two: one for pass holders and one for ticket holders) and as the signs were at the front of the lines, they were often hidden by the people already lined up. Perhaps having another sign (or a volunteer directing people) near the bottom of the lines with an arrow to the left for ticket holders and another arrow to the right for pass holders. It’s just a small point though as the helpful volunteers at the front of the lines were always there to help people.
Oops, I said “things” earlier and I really only have the one point. Sorry, the festival was so well organized, that was the only thing that came to mind.
The Toronto Korean Film Festival was a simply amazing inaugural festival. Even in my tired & cranky state from being sick during most of it, I had a blast. There really isn’t enough good things I can say about it, epecially as it was an inaugural event, other than I am simply amazed at how well it was put together in such a short period of time. Would I recommend it? Absolutely and without reservation! So many positives – great films, friendly people, fun touches that made it special – that all I can say is: when is next year’s TKFF?!?!
Did you attend any of the TKFF screenings? What did you think of the festival? Looking for the first part of this review? Click on the link – Review: Toronto Korean Film Festival – Part One.