Review: Korean-Canadian and Korean Indie Shorts at TKFF

Korean-Canadian & Korean Indie Shorts tickets

Korean-Canadian Shorts at TKFF

Full disclosure: I would like to state upfront that I know two of the directors of the shorts I’m about to review. I’ve tried not to let that affect my review but I will say, it is way more difficult reviewing the work of anyone I’ve met over those I don’t know.

But now onto the review…

The theatre was reasonably full for the Korean-Canadian Shorts night as family and friends came to support the directors in attendance. The demographics of the audience were also a little different for these screenings, at least from a quick glance around the theatre.

One of my favourite parts of attending competition screenings of shorts is the directors are often in attendance. It’s always more interesting attending Shorts presentations when the directors are actually there and all but one of the directors was in attendance. Why is it more fun or interesting? Well, beyond the fact that I’m a people-person and love being able to put a face to a name… it just makes them more real somehow. Plus, there is often a short question and answer period too and it’s always interesting to hear their answers. Although there’s always one audience member that seems to ask either really odd or really technical questions.

There was one hiccup – or rather two – during the screenings when two of the films didn’t play properly and the audience got an unscheduled intermission while the organizers fixed the problem. I’m sure it was nerve-wracking for the directors in question but I was quite impressed with how the organizers handled the situation. By apologizing, taking the time to fix the issue and replaying the films in question (restarting one and replaying the other at the end), not to mention offering everyone present a free ticket to another screening – they were able to not only salvage the situation but diffuse what could have been a negative situation. Great customer service in the face of a bad situation.

D.C. al Fine (2012)

Director: LEE Bansuk (이반석)

This is the story about a Korean gangster who dreams of being a musician but ultimately lands in trouble with his gang.

I liked the story, it was an interesting premise. Indeed I was intrigued by the description on the TKFF website, and the short didn’t disappoint. And while I know nothing about how to film a movie or short, I liked how this short was filmed.

A Drummer’s Passion (2010)

Director: KIM Mingu (김민구)

This is a documentary about Kwon Soon Keun, a legendary Korean drummer and former member of ADD-4, a Korean rock band.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen A Drummer’s Passion as I also saw it last year during the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival in Richmond Hill. One of the things that jumped out at me while watching this documentary was how well the director, Mingu Kim, captured the passion of his subject.

In Retrospect (2011)

Director: Chris K. Kim

This is an animated short about a guy and a girl whose chance meeting allows them to re-examine their lives.

Just like I know nothing about filming a movie or short, I also know nothing about making an animation. Listening to the amount of work that was put into this animation made it even more impressive. It was very visually appealing and fascinating.

Numbers (2012)

Director: Robert Hloz

A young man sees numbers above people’s heads and meets girl who can also see them sitting at an outdoor restaurant.

I loved this film, such a cool story idea and I thought the actors did a great job and sucking me into the short. The ending was fantastic and so poignant. This was the one I voted for as the story rocked (and I’m kinda partial to good stories).

My Grandpa (2011)

Director: ZONG Eui-yong (정의영)

This documentary was a memorial tribute to the director’s grandfather.

This was the second documentary short of the evening and a personal tale of the director’s grandfather and family. It was a very emotional peek into their lives to see their family dynamics and ties. Because of the intimacy of the subject matter, as a viewer you were left feeling privileged for the glimpse into their lives.

My Grandpa won the Sponsor Award.

Open Invitation (2012)

Director: PARK Jaewoo (박재우)

A young Korean man in Canada tries to find ways out of doing his mandatory military service in Korea.

While I think this film makes more sense when one has some basic understanding of Korean culture, it’s based on an interesting premise. It’s fascinating all the different ways that the main character comes up with to try and escape his fate. Favourite scenes were the blind date and the convenience store.

Open Invitation won Third Prize in the shorts competition.

Death Buy Lemonade (2010)

Director: LEE Kyubum (이규범)

An animation short about a lemonade stand.

This was my second favourite of all the shorts. It was so cute and I loved the twist at the end. While the shortest of the shorts, it was still able to aptly tell a fun – if a little dark – story. Plus the animation rocked!

Conclusion

All in all, it was a fantastic night of Korean-Canadian shorts. There wasn’t a bad film in the bunch and it is super encouraging to see so much talent out there! I hope I get the chance to see more films from all of them. For more info, head on over to TKFF’s website.

Korean Indie Shorts

Wednesday night went off without a hitch and my reviews were much easier to write as I didn’t know anyone involved. Read on to find out what I thought about the Korean Indie shorts.

Nan Jian Wan Zi 난자완스 (2012)

Director: Moon CHOI (최문경)

This short is about a university student who lovingly cooks a wonderful meal on her birthday for the boy she has a crush on only to have another guy show up.

My first impression of the male character – the guy who shows up unannounced and eats all her food – was that he was an ass. But as the story progressed you see that he likes her (even as she likes another) and just doesn’t show it well, although the offer to make her birthday soup was sweet. Overall, it was a sweet story and one that would play well for most audiences.

Nan Jian Wan Zi 난자완스 won the second prize in the competition.

Ari 아리 (2011)

Directors: BAEK Ki-hwan (백기환), LEE Sue-min (이수민), CHOE Nuri (최누리)

A short with no dialogue focusing on a young woman dancing by the sea.

This was a trippy short that while beautiful visually, simply didn’t appeal to me.

Etude Solo 에튀드 솔로 (2011)

Director: YOO Dae-eol (유대열)

A young piano tuner goes to a remote location to tune a piano for a children’s concert and meets his first love from high school.

A beautifully shot – I especially loved the scene of him walking to the location – short with a sweet, cute story. The piano playing at the end was brilliant. So much to like about this film and it would appeal to most audiences.

Etude Solo 에튀드 솔로 won the first prize in the shorts competition.

The Ordinary People 보통의 존재 (2011)

Director: GO Tae-min (고태민)

A story about an office worker who starts to question the repeated routine of his life and then starts being chased by nightmares and perhaps in life too.

This was one seriously creepy short! That being said it was an interesting commentary on big corporations (or chaebols in Korea). But as interesting as the story was, the subtitles were bad enough to be distracting. I spent almost as much time cringing at the subs as I did watching the short.

Mark’s Festival 마크의 축제

Director: JANG Yujin (장유진)

Mark, an Englishman, visits his girlfriend Jenny’s family in the Korean countryside with her. Cultural differences and questions about their relationship arise.

While I liked the premise and thought the acting was really good, I also found the story – okay, mainly the Mark character – trite and a little unrealistic. Really, after dating Jenny (a Korean girl) for three years, he knew so little about Korean culture and language but perhaps I just have high expectations.

Sera 쎄라 (2011)

Director: LIM Woo-seong (임우성)

A young woman and her older boyfriend are in a bar. Just as she starts to question whether he’s breaking up with her, he receives a text that changes their lives.

I absolutely loved the ending of this short. Totally unexpected! I went into it thinking it was a tale of an affair ending and then it goes all sci-fi on me… fabulous.

Metamorphoses 변신이야기 (2011)

Director: OH In-chun (오인천)

A young comic book artist follows a female jogger into the woods to return her MP3 and gets caught up with a group of thugs. Things spiral out of control from there.

When I read the description of this short I was expecting a Korean gangster flick and that’s how it starts out. But then it goes completely sideways into the realm of fantasy and vampires… nice! Okay, I have a weak spot for vampires but this was an interesting twist. Highlights for me – the ending, the eyeball on the floor and the garlic juice.

Conclusion

It was another night of entertaining shorts and I would definitely recommend checking out most of them if you get the chance. Want more information on the Korean Indie Shorts, check out Toronto Korean Film Festival’s website.

P.S. I put them together in one giant review because of the competition.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm on the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival. Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher.

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