Preview: 2017 Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF)

This is always a fun time of year for me when I can announce that lineup of films at the Toronto Korean Film Festival (or TKFF for short). Full disclosure: this is a festival that’s close to my heart as I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors but even before I joined the board, I liked the festival and supported what it was doing – bringing Korean films and films from the Korean diaspora to Toronto. So while I’m a bit biased towards the festival, we’ve brought interesting and entertaining films before and this year’s lineup is a good one.

At the 6th annual TKFF, you’ll get the chance to see interesting and thoughtful documentaries, shorts, and feature films – it’s a great experience for film lovers and newbies to Korean film as there is something to interest pretty much everyone. So whether it’s your first time at TKFF or you’re a festival veteran, come on out! It’s a great way to see films that you may not have discovered on your own or had the chance to see outside of a film festival.

But enough from me, I’ll let you be the judge about the films, just keeping reading to learn more about them…

The 2017 TKFF Lineup

All screenings are at Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex Avenue, just south of St. George Station). Individual tickets are $12 (online) and a festival pass is $80 – and all are on sale now!

Opening Night – Wednesday, July 12

Image courtesy of TKFF

Weekends 위켄즈

7:00 pm | Lee Dong-Ha (이동하) | Documentary | 98 mins | Korea 2016 |  $12.00

Feature Presentation | Canadian Premiere

SYNOPSIS: Every weekend, a group of gay men gather around the heart of Seoul, to sing. They are more like a bunch of amateurs than a harmonized choir, but they are voicing up for themselves and others suffering.  

G-Voice is the one and only gay men’s choir in South Korea. They are all amateur singers, but their passion paves its way to the 10th anniversary. With the big concert only a few days ahead, they are invited to perform at the very first gay wedding in Korea, where members are assaulted with fecal water by a homophobic group. However, “give up” is not in G-Voice’s dictionary, they keep singing for equality and against all kinds of discrimination. Will G-Voice’s 10th anniversary concert succeed? This glossy music documentary sheds light on the gay men’s hardship and joy in Korean society.

[synopsis from TKFF]

Day 2 – Thursday, July 13

Image courtesy of TKFF

Queen of Walking 걷기왕

7:00 pm | Baek Seung-Hwa (백승화) | Drama | 93 mins | Korea 2016 | $12.00

Feature Presentation | Canadian Premiere

SYNOPSIS: Due to congenital motion sickness syndrome, high school student Man-bok must walk to and from school each day, which takes 4 hours. Amazed by her willingness to walk such a long distance to school, her homeroom teacher introduces her to racewalking. Without dreams and bright future to look forward to, Man-bok begins to appreciate racewalking. A track and field senior Su-ji was suspicious of Man-bok’s sudden passion for the sport, but she starts to open up and they work together to prep for the national competition. But the distance to where the competition is taking place, is over 70km from her home. Can Man-bok overcome this massive obstacle and participate in the competition? [synopsis from TKFF]

Day 3 – Friday, July 14

Image courtesy of TKFF

Snowy Road 눈길

7:00 pm | Lee Na-Jeong (이나정) | Drama | 121 mins | Korea 2017 | $12.00

Feature Presentation | Canadian Premiere

SYNOPSIS: Jong-bun, in her eighties, is one of the last surviving ‘Comfort Women’ victims forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II. Back in 1944, at the end of the Japanese occupation in Korea, Jong-bun was a poor but energetic girl while Young-ae was the smart rich clerk’s daughter. One day, Jong-bun gets abducted and finds herself on a train for Manchuria. To her surprise, she also finds Young-ae on the train facing the same fate to become a comfort woman. Jong-bun and Young-ae help each other go through the living hell and as the war comes to an end, they finally escape from the comfort women camp, only to face two different paths of life. Decades later, Jong-bun helps out a teenaged girl who is disoriented in life, reminded of her own painful past. [synopsis from TKFF]

Preceded by: 

A Conversation With Hana 하나와의 대화

Eui Yong Zong | Documentary | 9 min | Canada 2016 | Korean w/ English subtitles

Day 4 – Saturday, July 15

Image courtesy of TKFF

Korean Shorts Competition Showcase

2:30 pm | $12.00

Pig Riding Hood 할머니와 돼지머리
Ahn Joo-Young | Drama | 27 min | Korea 2016

Fangs 송곳니
Shin Jong-Hun | Drama | 19 min | Korea 2016

Mommy, It Itches 아이, 간지러워
Chae Jae-Yeong | Drama | 5 min | Korea 2016

1 Kilogram 1킬로그램
Park Young-Ju | Drama | 29 min | Korea 2016

Summer Night 여름밤
Lee Ji-Won | Drama | 29 min | Korea 2016

Being 있는 존재
Park Si-Woo | Documentary | 17 min | Korea 2016

Image courtesy of TKFF

Worst Woman 최악의 하루

5:00 pm | Kim Jong-Kwan (김종관) | Drama/Romance | 93 mins | Korea 2016 | $12.00

Feature Presentation | North American Premiere

SYNOPSIS: Eun-hee is an actress whose acting is poor, but she also plays in her real life. Her performance full of lies helps her feel she creates different personalities each time she dates separate men. Eventually a pack of her lies is tangled up and everything is about to be messed up. Ryohei, a Japanese writer, visits Seoul for his book launch party. He often writes a story pushing characters into a corner and then makes it be a tragedy. He meets Eun-hee by chance, who is in a trouble, just like in his novels. [synopsis from TKFF]

Image courtesy of TKFF

Our President 노무현입니다

7:30 pm | Lee Chang-Jae (이창재) | Documentary | 109 mins | Korea 2017 | $12.00

Feature Presentation | Canadian Premiere

SYNOPSIS: In South Korea, 2002, the Democratic Party put the presidential nomination to a plebiscite for the first time. Amongst numerous candidates, the one who brought about the most unexpected result was a fringe candidate named Roh Moo-hyun. [synopsis from TKFF]

Day 5/Closing Night – Sunday, July 16

Image courtesy of TKFF

The Housemaid 하녀

2:30 pm | Kim Ki-Yeong (김기영) | Drama | 111 mins | Korea 1960 | $12.00

Korean Classic Presentation

**Free for seniors (65+) and students (must present at the door valid school ID)

SYNOPSIS: Piano composer Dong-sik and his pregnant wife need extra help around the house, so they hire a housemaid, whose precociousness soon gives way to troubling behavior. Tensions between her and Dong-sik lead to an affair, and while the pregnancy ends in a miscarriage, it also results in the maid becoming obsessed with killing the entire family, starting with their older son. Soon their comfortable home becomes a physical and psychological battleground. [synopsis from TKFF]

Image courtesy of TKFF

Sound of Nomad: Koryo Arirang 고려 아리랑: 천산의 디바

5:00 pm | Lee So-Young (김소영) | Documentary | 87 mins | Korea 2017 | $12.00

Korean Diaspora Programme | International Premiere

Synopsis: Sound of Nomad: Koryo Arirang starts with a diva of a tragic family history related to a history of migration. The rare archival footage re-animates her history reverberating with the current world crisis. This is a testimonial – a witness to injustice and tragedy, but it is also a declaration of survival – a survival that is not static but transformative – not brittle but fluid. The trains that displace, the deserts that separate form one harsh horizon –a historical limit– but within that limit, against it and across it are people, are a culture, not escaping but flourishing unofficially, with the affective majesty of a melody, a rhythm, an Arirang. [synopsis from TKFF]

Preceded by

Belle Ville 벨빌

Jung Won-Hee | Drama | 26 min | France 2016 | North American Premiere

Image courtesy of TKFF

A Quiet Dream 춘몽

7:30 pm | Zhang Lu (장률/张律) | Drama | ? mins | Korea 2017 | $12.00

Feature Presentation | Canadian Premiere

SYNOPSIS: Three men around a woman, and their unusual way of expressing their emotion.

In center of Seoul, contrary to the fancy buildings, still there’s a poor town called, Su-saek. And there are three special losers; Ik-june, a gang expelled by laughing at leader’s funeral, Jung-bum, a North Korean defector with depression, Jong-bin, an epileptic who only drinks milk. They call each other patient. Three of them frequent a small bar in the town to win the heart of a charming bar lady, Ye-ri. They have their own issues to suffer but never blame anyone. They know how to forget things and laugh. One day, Ye-ri asks what they dreamed last night. While each of them tells their nightmares, Ye-ri tells them she had a firth dream; she made love to each of them… [synopsis from TKFF]

Final Thoughts

It’s another lineup of great films this year that I can’t decide which I want to see most or which to recommend to you. From what I’ve heard from the programmers, they are all good and different programmers recommend different films (which is often the case^^). Personally, I can recommend the shorts programme as I’ve already seen 4 of the 6 and they are definitely not what I expected but good. And of course, I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the documentaries and feature films – hey, I told you I couldn’t decide which to recommend this year. But I’d love to hear which one you are looking forward to seeing most so please let me know in the comments. Which film(s) are you going to see?

Editor’s note: Like I said at the start, I’m the chair of the board of directors for the Toronto Korean Film Festival, but 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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