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We are entering the third month of KCCUK’s Year of 12 Directors. March showcases four films of Park Kwang-su (박광수), none of which I am familiar with. Indeed, I have not watched anything by Park, so I am hoping to make it to all the screenings. He certainly sounds like an interesting filmmaker.

As a pioneering figure in the Korean New Wave, he emerged as part of a new generation of filmmakers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, tackling socio-cultural topics that were previously taboo during censorship times. Other members of this generation include Chung Ji-young (정지영), Kim Hong-joon (김홍준) and Jang Kil-soo (장길수). The Korean new Wave, which was first known as “new realism” within Korea but dubbed “Korean New Wave” by foreign critics, is considered seminal in the development of the film industry of the country. In New Korean Cinema. Breaking the Waves, Darcy Paquet writes that it had connections to the dissident movement at universities, explaining further:

Some of the central concerns of the dissident movement are contained in the term minjung, a word that has acquired numerous connotations and so is difficult to translate into English. Derived from the Chinese characters ‘min’ (民/people) and ‘jung’ (眾/masses), the term can be rendered as ‘the masses’, but is tied to the idea of a repressed and exploited populace, the working class in particular. One of the central tenets of minjung theory is that the masses are the subjects, not the objects, of history, and so history should be understood from their point of view. (16)

With changes in the political landscape of Korea and a partial relaxation of censorship – scripts no longer had to be submitted to censors and previously verboten issues, including some social critique, became possible -, the socially conscious filmmakers of the Korean New Wave incorporated “the minjung movement’s focus on the exploited masses into the mainstream film industry” (21) and were committed to “using the medium of film to push for social change” (21).

아름다운 청년 전태일 (Areumdaun cheongnyeon Jeon Tae-il/A Single Spark)

The Harvard Film Archive recently screened several of Park’s films and has information on the director and synopses for the first three productions to be shown at the KCCUK in March on their website.

Film screening dates and trailers:

  • March 8th: 칠수와 만수 (Chilsuwa Mansu/Chilsu and Mansu, 1988) – Park’s debut feature was based on a – at that time – banned novel of Taiwanese writer Huang Chunming. Darcy Paquet has a review. No official trailer seems to be available, although there is a 3-min trailer-like video on YouTube which provides at least some visual impressions.
  • March 15th:  이재수의 난 (Yi Chae-su ui nan/The Uprising, 1999) – Again, no trailer available. There is little information available about this film generally (not even a plot synopsis on asianwiki), but it deals with the persecution of Christian groups in Korea at the beginning of the 20th century.
  • March 22: 아름다운 청년 전태일 (Areumdaun cheongnyeon Jeon Tae-il/A Single Spark, 1995) – A film about a labour activist that immolates himself to protest labour law violations, which, to me, makes it perhaps the most interesting films of the selection. Paquet has more, as does the Korean Film Archive (KOFA). No trailer available.
  • March 29rd: 눈부신 날에 (Nunbushin Nal-ae/ Meet Mr. Daddy aka Shiny Day, 2006) + Q&A with director – Park’s most recent film about a young, seriously ill girl who is sent to live with her wayward father – a former criminal who only takes her in because it provides him with some financial benefits. Although the film deals with some social issues, it seems less political than the other three. Nunbushin Nal-ae won the ‘Young Audiences Award’ at the 2007 Rome Film Festival.

Booking for the first three screenings (free entry) can be done here, for the fourth film at Apollo Cinema (not yet available).
Final note: Surprisingly, hancinema.net has a very meagre profile for Park, with details only on his most recent film.

References:

Paquet, Darcy. New Korean Cinema. Breaking the Waves. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2009.