TKFF Review: Korean Shorts Competition 2016

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

One of my favourite screenings each year at the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF) is the Shorts Competition. For one thing, I know I’m going to see good film because there’s always so many shorts submitted (this year there were 220!) that the ones they choose for the competition are always interesting. I don’t always like them but they are always worth watching and this year was no different.

Actually, it was. I may be going out on a limb but I think this was the best year yet for shorts. Usually there’s an obvious choice (for me at least) for the audience choice award but this year, there were a few shorts that could have won it. And for the first time ever, the audience choice award and the best short as selected by the judges were the same. Keep reading to learn more about the shorts and to find out which one won.

My Thoughts

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

The Chicken Of Wuzuh (우주의 닭)

12 min | Directed by: Sung Bin BYUN | Drama | Korea 2015 | Canadian Premiere

A student has a crush on her teacher but when she finds out that he gave another student the same hair accessory, she’s hurt and brings a chicken to school causing chaos.

This was an interesting short that came with a warning (and perhaps moral) that every action causes a reaction so one should be careful, especially with children, not to unintentionally hurt them by promising what you can’t – or don’t mean to – deliver. The boy who had a crush on Wuzuh was sweet and saved it from being depressing.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Searching For Bong (봉준호를 찾아서)

21 min | Directed by: Ha Rim JEONG | Documentary | Korea 2015 | North American Premiere

This doc centers on three high school seniors who are discouraged about becoming filmmakers and so set out to meet and interview Korean director, Bong Joon Ho.

It’s cute, funny and real. The teens are so very earnest in trying to connect with Bong Joon Ho and they definitely try every available channel to try to connect with him. Their enthusiasm, effort and sheer perseverance pays off and they do interview them. However, he’s honest with them about filmmaking which I don’t think they expected. The three students are so likable that it’s impossible not to like the doc.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Late Summer (여름의 끝)

19 min | Directed by: Cho Ye LIM | Drama |Korea 2015 | North American Premiere

A snapshot of a ten year old girl’s life one summer. She lives with her father and older sister, hangs out with friends but still looks unhappy.

My least favourite of the shorts, I was left with a mild feeling of distaste and unhappiness about the short. None of the characters, including the main character, were particularly likable and there didn’t seem to be a point to the short other than to provide a depressing look at a young girl’s life.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Her, Rose (허장미 사망사건의 전말)

20 min | Directed by: Min Ji KIM | Comedy, Drama | Korea 2015 | World Premiere

Ju Yeon is waiting to hear back about a job when she finds out that her mother died unexpectedly. To fulfill her mother’s dying wish, she embarks on a quest to find out what really happened and who’s responsible.

This was my favourite short of the night. The quirky humour, the soundtrack, the way it was filmed – all combined to make it a thoroughly interesting and fun short. I loved the running sequences. It’s hard to image a short about looking for how a young woman’s mother died being funny, but it was. My only negative point was that the subtitles went too fast, especially at the beginning.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Fishy Family (생선구이 다리집)

25 min | Directed by: Bong Joo KIM | Comedy, Drama |Korea 2015 | North American Premiere

My second favourite short of the evening. It’s a story about family – in all its dysfunctional glory. A divorced woman is back living with her mother (and working at the family fish restaurant) after having an affair. Then her teenage son comes to visit.

The acting was fabulous in the short about a family that’s messed up, knows it and isn’t afraid to be angry about it. Lots of cursing but it feels real, and despite the simmering anger and resentment, there’s love. An interesting take on a broken family – is it really broken or just changed as it’s definitely still family.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Prey (먹이)

4 min 20 sec | Directed by: Bo Young KIM | Animation | Korea 2014 | Canadian Premiere

A small fish in a tank dreams of the wider world she sees outside it but the reality is different from what she envisioned.

An animated short that will surprise you, like it did the audience and me. Loved the shock of the ending. The director lulls you into thinking you know what’s going to happen when the fish jumps out but you really, really don’t – and that was the beauty of the film.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

GREED (아귀)

4 min 20 sec | Directed by: Woo Jin SONG | Drama | Korea 2014 | North American Premiere

A nurse is hired for what she thinks is a simple anesthetization job but turns out to be so much more. Can she escape?

An interesting, if a bit gory, take on greed. From the preview, I expected something a little different but nonetheless, it was still dark and showed some of the worst in society. The final scene reminded me strongly of the final scene in Monkey Hunter from the Korean-Canadian showcase.

Courtesy of TKFF
Courtesy of TKFF

Final Thoughts

For the first time ever, the Audience Choice Award (as chosen by the audience) and the Best Korean Short Award (as chosen by a panel of 4 jurors) went to the same short, Fishy Family. For me, it was one of two shorts that I wanted to vote for – but only being able to choose one, I chose Her, Rose (which was the juror’s second choice). Second choice from the audience went to Searching for Bong. All in all, it was a good night of film and there was lots of chatter among those in attendance about the shorts afterwards which is always a good sign.

Disclosure: While not involved in any way in selection of films or programming, I am the chair of the board of directors for the Toronto Korean Film Festival. However, the opinions expressed are mine and not that of the festival. 

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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