Monday, March 2, 2009


Korean Cinema at SFIAAFF 2009

Most years, emerging Korean cinema always has a strong presence at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF). This year is no exception. In fact, both opening and closing night films are Korean at this year's SFIAAFF.

Korean actor Ha Jung-woo (하정우) is perhaps one of the mostly sought actors these days. While his terrific performance in "Time" (시간) and "Never Forever" (두 번째 사랑, SFIAAFF 2008) are still fresh to many, he appears in two new films playing completely different characters at this year's festival.

  • My Dear Enemy (멋진 하루 | South Korea 2008 | in Korea | 123 min.)

    This year's opening night film is the delightful and talkative "My Dear Enemy." Ha Jung-woo ("Time," "Breath," "Never Forever") plays an insouciant and charming ex-boyfriend, who owns money to his ex-girlfriend, played by Jeon Do-yeon ("Secret Sunshine," "My Mother the Mermaid"). The film follows the couple around in Seoul to get some money and explores the fascinating complexity in human relationship.

    Jung-woo HA as Byoung-woon, Do-youn JEON as Hee-soo in MY DEAR ENEMY

  • Treeless Mountain (USA/South Korea 2008 | in Korea | 89 min.)

    After "In Between Days" (SFIAAFF 2007), director So Yong Kim returns to SFIAAFF with her second feature "Treeless Mountain," this year's closing night film. "Treeless Mountain" intimately tells a story of two young girls who longing for their mom who left them, when they are not preoccupied by their own children's daily activities. The two young actors give a wonderful performance as the young sisters. This film reminds me of the heartbroken Japanese film "Nobody Knows," one of my all time favorites.

    Hee Yeon Kim as Jin, Song Hee as Bin TREELESS MOUNTAIN

  • The Chaser (추격자 | South Korea 2008 | in Korean | 123 min.)

    The third Korean film "The Chaser" is an impressive feature debut from director Na Hong-jin (나홍진). In this engrossing, unpredictable, and exciting thriller, Ha Jung-woo plays a completely different character from the happy-go-lucky guy in the opening night film "My Dear Enemy." This time, he is chased as a murder by an ex-cop who turns into a pimp. Although the film is not the same as "Oldboy," but the hammer definitely brings chill in the neck, keeps the audiences on the edge of their seats, and chases the Hollywood out to remake it.

    Ha Jung-woo in The Chaser

  • Tokyo! (France/Japan/Germany/South Korea 2008 | in Japanese and French | 110 min.)

    "Tokyo!" consists of three stories from two French directors Leos Carax and Michel Gondry, and a Korean director Bong Joon-ho (봉준호), who made the sci-fi blockbuster "The Host." They offer an unique perspective about the lives in the most crowed and exciting city — Tokyo!

    Teruyuki Kagawa (R) in Bong Joon-ho's Shaking Tokyo segment of Tokyo!


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