Reel Asian Review: Korean Shorts

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

This year at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, otherwise known as Reel Asian because the former is a mouthful, there were a variety of shorts presentations and six shorts were Korean, Korean-Canadian, Korean-American or set in Korea. And while we’d love to bring you coverage of all the shorts, it wasn’t possible so keep reading to see what I thought about the Korean shorts.

‘The World’s A Stage’ Shorts Presentation

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Flamenco

Gloria Ui Young Kim* | Canada 2015 | 12:00 | World Premiere

Synopsis: Sparks fly between dance partners and lovers Camilla and Alexander, as they prepare to perform Bizet’s famous work Carmen. Winner of the 2013 Reel Asian So You Think You Can Pitch? Competition.

My Thoughts: This was an intriguing short with some beautiful dancing. It’s also one of those films I wanted to watch again after seeing it the first time as there were so many subtleties, I wanted to make sure I got them all. I also liked how the short was open to interpretation – were they lovers, was it a dream? So beautiful to watch and it will leave you thinking.

*I interviewed Gloria about her film and it will be up shortly (link added once it’s up).

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Impersonation

Boyoung Kim | South Korea 2013 | 3:22

Synopsis: Impersonating someone or something may lead us to what we desire — but be careful what you wish for!

My Thoughts: Unfortunately, this was the one Korean short screening at Reel Asian that I wasn’t able to see so I can’t comment.

‘Hungry Heart’ Shorts Presentation

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Quyen

Lucretia Stinnette | United States/South Korea 2014 | 17:00 | Canadian Premiere

Synopsis: After the first week of her arranged marriage in a foreign land, Quyen must decide how the next chapter in her life will be written.

My Thoughts: A well-acted short that focuses on one of the social issues Korea faces – foreign brides with little to no knowledge of Korean or their spouses. Of course, it’s not just a Korean issue, arranged marriages and foreign brides happen all over but this one is a glimpse into arranged/foreign brides in Korea. Quyen, the bride, has recently arrived and while her husband is kind and obviously trying to communicate with her, it’s apparent that she didn’t know much about who she was marrying or prepared for it. Add into the mix a mother-in-law who’s very critical and a friend from home who’s already left her Korean husband and it’s a much more complex tale than expected.

Both Quyen and her husband are sympathetically portrayed, and I would love to see the next chapter in the story as it was a good short.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Sun

Eui Yong Zong* | Canada 2015 | 11:04 | World Premiere

Synopsis: Sun works at a hair salon at the mercy of the salon owner. One day, she finds out the man she has been secretly in love with is going back to Korea for military service.

My Thoughts: First up, my thoughts on the short might be affected by the fact that I know the director and one of the actors but I try to be as unbiased as I can in my mini-review. The actress who played Sun had a very expressive face and even without a lot of dialogue, was able to portray quite a bit. The scene where she washes the man’s hair, a very commonplace activity that happens all the time in hair salons, was surprisingly sensual and oddly emotional for such a normal activity. Sun is an interesting and emotional fictional film from a director who’s done mostly documentaries up to this point.

*I interviewed Eui Yong about his film and it will be up shortly (link added once it’s up). Congrats to SUN for being one of the six shorts selected for the Air Canada Best Short Film or Video Award which gives it the opportunity to be broadcasted on Air Canada’s international in-flight entertainment movie channel in May 2016.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Man on the Chair

Dahee Jeong | France 2014 | 6:55 | Toronto Premiere

Synopsis: Evocative and humourous, Man on the Chair is an exquisitely rendered rumination on existence.

My Thoughts: A very riveting and provocative animated short that’s engaging, compelling and beautiful to watch. I loved this short as it made me think but it was oddly difficult to describe in a review. Go see it if you can.

‘Born to Run’ Shorts Presentation

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

NU-LIFE

Lynn Kim | USA 2015 | 4:30 Toronto Premiere

Synopsis: Through stunning experimental animation, NU-LIFE takes a vividly intimate look at the family dry cleaner.

My Thoughts: An amazingly gorgeous animation that’s not only visually spectacular but also fascinating and thought-provoking. It’s a film that one can watch a few times and still find it interesting.

Congrats to NU-LIFE for being one of the six shorts selected for the Air Canada Best Short Film or Video Award which gives it the opportunity to be broadcasted on Air Canada’s international in-flight entertainment movie channel in May 2016.

Final Thoughts

There were such an interesting array of shorts – both Korean and otherwise even if I’ve only talked about the Korean ones – at Reel Asian this year. Shorts that explored human relationships, interactions and love; others that explored life in all its meaning. There was something for everyone, with shorts that were engaging, interesting and thought-provoking. Another year of great programming from Reel Asian and great shorts.

Editor’s Note: The film synopses are courtesy of Reel Asian.

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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