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April is almost here, which means it is Song Il-gon (송일곤) Month at the KCCUK.

Song Il-gon (b. 1971) is a South Korean director that has seen more success abroad than at home. In a fashion similar to Kim Ki-duk, his films have garnered praise in the international film festivals circuit, but received less attention in his native country, whether from critics or from cinema goers. Song’s career trajectory is intriguing: after graduating from the Seoul Institute of the Arts (서울예술대학) in 1994, his request for a visa to study in the US was turned down and he ended up the Polish National Film School in Łódź instead – the school that produced filmmakers such as Roman Polanski and Krzystzof Kieslowski.

Song made a number of notable shorts during his time in Poland, Hong Kong director Wong Kar-awai liking “Liver and Potato” (1998) so much that he asked the young filmmaker to collaborate with him, an offer that Song turned down. The next year, 소풍 (Sopoong/The Picnic) won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s short film competition, making Song the first Korean to win at the prestigious event. There was more success ahead with Song’s first feature film, 꽃섬 (Ggot seom/Flower Island), winning awards at the Venice Film Festival and the Fribourg International Film Festival, as well as multiple prizes at the Busan International Film Festival in 2001 – a first recognition at home. However, with Song’s films being more arthouse than mainstream, cinema goers were not yet convinced and it wasn’t until 깃 (Git/Feathers in the Wind) in 2004 that the director also had a triumph at the domestic box office.

Filmography:

  • Marzenia klauna (The Dream of the Clowns, 1997) – short made while studying in Poland
  • Liver and Potato (1998) – short made while studying in Poland. There may be a Polish (or Korean) original title, but I could not track it down.
  • 소풍 (So-poong/The Picnic, 1999) – short
  • 꽃섬 (Ggot seom/Flower Island, 2001) – first feature film
  • 거미숲 (Geomi sup/Spider Forest, 2004)
  • 깃 (Git/Feathers in the Wind, 2004)
  • 마법사들 (Mabeopsadul/Magicians, 2005)
  • 디지털 삼인삼색 (Dijiteol saminsamsaek, lit. ‘Digital Project’, 2005)
  • 사화 (Sahwa, lit. Reconciliation, 2008)
  • 시간의 춤 (Shiganui Chum/Dance of Time, 2009) – documentary
  • 미안해, 고마워 (Miahnhae, Gomawo/Sorry and Thank You, 2011) – segment “Sorry and Thank You”
  • 오직 그대만 (Ohjik Geudaeman/Always aka Only You, 2011)
  • 시간의 숲 (Siganeui Soop/Forest of Time, 2012) – documentary

Song Il-gon’s 거미숲 (Geomi sup/Spider Forest, 2004)

The KCCUK will be screening four of Song’s films in April. As his works are not easy to come by – even less so in subtitled form – don’t miss the opportunity to see them!

Film screening dates, trailers and short synopses:

  • April 5th: 꽃섬 (Ggot seom/Flower Island, 2001) – Three women, all suffering from psychological injuries, travel to an island with healing powers. Ggot seom received the FIPRESCI award at the Fribourg International Film Festival for “its sensitive portrait of three human destinies, within an accomplished and mature cinematographic grammar”, while the jury at the Busan International Film Festival praised it for “its remarkable direction in creating the interior universe of three women, and for its fine performances” (source for quotes: imdb.com). Adam Harzell writes more about Ggot seom over at koreanfilm.org. Otherwhere’s REVIEW.
  • April 12th:  (Git/Feathers in the Wind, 2005) – In Git, a filmmaker suffers from writer’s block and travels to a remote island to work on a screenplay and fulfil a promise he made a long time ago. On the island he meets So-yeon, who runs an inn with her uncle that has not spoken since having been abandoned by his wife. Some critics have declared Git the best romance ever filmed in Korea (source: wikipedia.org). Darcy Paquet has more on the filmOtherwhere’s REVIEW.
  • April 19th: 시간의 춤 (Siganeui Choom/Dance of Time, 2009) – With Siganeui Choom Song turns to documentary cinema, tracking the paths and dreams of the first Korean immigrants to Cuba in the early 20th century. Otherwhere’s REVIEW.
  • April 26th: 오직 그대만 (Ohjik Geudaeman/Always aka Only You, 2011) + Q&A with the director – Song’s most mainstream film to date was inspired by Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights and tells the story of an ex-boxer with a closed heart and a blind woman who fall in love. Ohjik Geudaeman opened the 2011 Busan International Film Festival.

Bonus links:

마법사들 (Mabeopsadul/Magicians, 2005)