Preview: Korean Films at Reel Asian 2014

Mourning Grave (소녀괴담), one of the Korean films at this year's Reel Asian
Mourning Grave (소녀괴담), one of the Korean films at this year’s Reel Asian

I’m a huge fan of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, which I’ll refer to simply as ‘Reel Asian’ like many do, from now on. If you’re wondering why I’m such a fan? It’s two-fold. First and foremost, they always show an interesting mix of Asian films and shorts, many of which would never come to Toronto otherwise and many of whose directors come for Q&A sessions. As a film lover before I was a film reviewer, I love director Q&A sessions – you learn such interesting things about the film you just watched and often see it, or at least certain parts of it, in a different light after listening to the director. So go see any and all of the films at Reel Asian, I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.

The second reason is more personal. Reel Asian was the first film festival to give me a press pass and the first festival I interviewed a feature film director at. So it will always have a special place in my heart.

But enough about me… let’s get on to the Korean films at this year’s Reel Asian.

New This Year

This year there’s new partnership between the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Toronto – and their 2014 Korean Film Festival – and Reel Asian. The Korean Consulate will be presenting two feature films – Mourning Grave and Manshin – along with one of the Korean shorts. Previously, the Consulate hosted their own Korean film festival but this year they are directly partnering with Reel Asian. When I asked for some additional information and clarification, this is what I was told: “As I understand, this new partnership will replace the festival they used to do on their own. That’s why their support has been recognized in our materials as: Consulate General of the Republic of Korea, Korea Foundation and 2014 Korean Film Festival.” It’s an interesting development even if it probably means less Korean films in Toronto.

Feature Films

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

MOURNING GRAVE (소녀괴담)

  • Director: Oh In Chun (in attendance)
  • South Korea, 2014
  • 90 minutes, Korean with English Subtitles
  • International Premiere
  • Saturday, November 8 @ 9:45 pm at The Royal (608 College Street)

In-su has the power to see ghosts. He returns to his hometown for a normal life, and ends up bonding with an unusual girl. When a mysterious ghost starts to hunt down and kill his classmates one by one, In-su is forced to reveal his supernatural sixth sense to save his classmates. Is there any time left for his burgeoning love life? Starring Kim So-eun from theBoys Over Flowers K-drama.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

MANSHIN: TEN THOUSAND SPIRITS (만신)

  • Director: Park Chan Kyong
  • South Korea 2013
  • 104 minutes, Korean with English subtitles
  • Canadian Premiere
  • Monday, November 10 @ 8:15 pm at AGO Jackman Hall (317 Dundas Street West)

A thought-provoking, sensory documentary from Park Chan-kyong (Day Trip and Night Fishing), Manshin provides an in-depth look at the indigenous religious belief of shamanism in South Korea, told through the famed shaman Kim Keum-hwa’s life story. “Manshin” is a respectful term for a shaman, and in the documentary the audience is given access to rare footage of the rituals that Shaman Kim has performed throughout her spiritual life. Although class distinction was almost gone in Korea by the 20th century, shamans remained in low social status and were shunned and oppressed by society. Viewers are transported through past and present, with notable reenactments by actors Moon So-ri, Kim Sae-ron, and Ryoo Hun-kyung.

Early Feature Film Presentation

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

JISEUL (지슬)

  • Director: O Meul
  • South Korea, 2012
  • 108 minutes, Korean with English subtitles
  • Canadian Premiere
  • at Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

The University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Korea presents The Afterlives of the Korean War Symposium, a two-day event that aims to bring together scholars, artists, filmmakers, and students to explore the multifaceted ways that unfinished wars are lived, experienced, imagined, and transformed. Reel Asian is proud to co-present the screening of Jiseul as part of this program.

In this compelling black-and-white portrait, director O Meul depicts the massacre at Korea’s Jeju island with heart-wrenching realism. In 1948, an uprising erupted in Jeju (the birthplace of O Meul) after the South Korean military fired on a demonstration commemorating the end of Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea. After a decree from the U.S. Military classifying all inhabitants within five kilometres of the coast as “rioters” and ordering their execution, over 120 villagers were forced to hide in a cave and fight for their survival.

Shorts Presentations

REACHING BEYOND THE 38TH PARALLEL

  • Shorts Presentation:
  • Wed Nov 12, 1:00 PM, AGO Jackman Hall

Reaching Beyond the 38th Parallel tells hopeful stories of resilience, affirmation, and healing, through three stories of families separated by the border between North and South Korea. Includes works by Daniel Yong, Kim Jung-in, Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem.

REWIND, PAUSE, PLAY

  • Shorts Presentation:
  • Mon Nov 10, 1:00 PM, AGO Jackman Hall

An assortment of shorts featuring those with a flair for nostalgia – and the step forward after looking back. Includes works by Vladimir Leschiov, Ivy Yukiko Oldford, Cindy Mochizuki, Emma Hendrix, Elisha Lim, Alisi Telengut, Betty Xie, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, and Minha Park.

UNSUNG VOICES 3

  • Youth Shorts Presentation:
  • Mon Nov 10, 6:30 PM, AGO Jackman Hall

Fearless first time filmmakers make their return in the 2014 edition of Unsung Voices. Includes works by Helen Shen, Christina Paik, Leanne Wang, Meryl Romo, Nathaniel Wong, Siam Yu.

Final Thoughts 

Reel Asian always has a great roster of films and shorts, and this year is no different. Now I just mentioned the Korean films and short programs that feature Korean or Korean-Canadian directors but check out Reel Asian’s website for more details on all this films that are screening this year. They are also on Facebook and Twitter.

Oh, and we’ll have a couple of contests coming soon for a pair of tickets to the Korean films! So check back soon.

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 the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). 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. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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