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LLGFF 2013

Leesong Hee-il

The BFI has released its line-up for this year’s London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, with Leesong Hee-il films appearing threefold:

We have a feature and two mini-features from one of the most exciting contemporary gay Asian directors Leesong Hee-il with White Night, and Going South and Suddenly, Last Summer – moody, melancholic tales of suppressed desires.

백야 (Baekya/White Night, 2012), you may remember, was originally on the programme for the London Korean Film Festival back in October, but then got pulled because it got into the Berlinale. No one can blame the film’s director and producers for the last-minute festival swap (who wouldn’t want their film to have its European premiere in Berlin?), but it’s excellent news that Baekya has found its way back to the UK now, with screenings scheduled for March 16, 17 and 18, 2013. It is not the only Leesong Hee-il feature on the programme either, as is also a double bill of his shorts 지난여름, 갑자기 (Jinanyeoreum, Gapjagi/Suddenly Last Summer, 2012, 37 min) and 남쪽으로 간다 (Namjjokeuro Ganda/Going South, 2012, 45 min) on March 22 and 24, 2013.

Random fact: Baekya itself started out as a short, forming a (sort of) trilogy with the other two films, but was later extended into a full-length feature.

Baekya.

Baekya.

Synopses and trailers:

Update 27/3/2013: REVIEWS added for the Leesong Hee-il trilogy

  • 백야 (Baekya/White Night) – Won-gyu, a young man, returns to South Korea for the first time after an extended absence. He meets with Tae-jun, a motorbike courier whom he knows from the internet, for a night together, but their time is overshadowed by past events that weigh heavily in Won-gyu’s mind. I like the Berlinale’s description of Won-gyu: he’s “a flight attendant” who is “constantly in transit” and lives a life of “[a]nonymous hotel rooms”. It’s all very suggestive of some of the internal conflicts (loneliness, lack of rootedness?) I think the film will explore through the memory an external one – a homophobic assault.
  • 지난여름, 갑자기 (Jinanyeoreum, Gapjagi/Suddenly Last Summer) – Kyeon-hoon is a teacher. After having been seen in a gay bar by one of his students, he is relentlessly pursued by the youngster. Unlike Kyeon-hoon, who hides his sexuality and fears for his job, Sang-woo is open about his feelings for his teacher and will even blackmail him for them to spend some time together.
  • 남쪽으로 간다 (Namjjokeuro Ganda/Going South) – This one – which according to the BFI is “filled with stifled desire and fraught emotional tension” – is a road movie in which two men are on their way back to military camp. One man puts a sleeping pill into the coffee of the other one, and then drives south with the unconscious companion. When the drugged man awakens, he is full of anger, yet “repulsion is not that far from… desire” (quote source).

More Programme Highlights

Left to right: Bwakaw, Facing Mirrors, My Brother the Devil.

Left to right: Bwakaw, Aynehaye Rooberoo, My Brother the Devil.

Perhaps a little surprisingly there is nothing from Japan on the LLGFF programme this year – in 2012, 「僕らの未来」 (Bokura no Mirai/Our Future, 2011), dir. by Iizuka Kashou, was a raw gem – but there are a number of other interesting offerings from Asia and elsewhere:

  • 捍路 (Lopsided, Hong Kong, 2012, 30 min) – A short directed by Chow Ka Ho and Yeung Tsz Ngo Poppy that screens as part of the What I Love about Being Queer selection and sees a conflicted mother feeding her lesbian daughter anti-gay drugs. Screen March 20 and 22, 2013.
  • Bwakaw (Philippines, 2012) – Dir. by Jun Robles Lana. All the names involved in this project sound rather Spanish to me, but it is apparently a film from the Philippines about a man in Malaysia. The BFI describes it as a “charming, gently comic film” about “a grumpy older gay man”, which makes it sound rather delightful. Bwakaw was the Philippines’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award in 2012, but did not make the final shortlist. Screens March 22 and 24, 2013.
  • آینه های روبرو (Aynehaye Rooberoo/Facing Mirrors, Iran/Germany, 2011) – Dir. by Negar Azarbayjani. I’m thrilled to see Aynehaye Rooberoo on the programme – a friend recommended it to me and, intrigued, I featured it on Trailer Weekly #51 (which also included 알이씨REC/REC, 2011, another Korean film I had been hoping to see on the LLGFF programme, but, alas, you can’t have everything). Aynehaye Rooberoo tackles the topic of transgender identity and, after Baekya, is a must-see at this festival for me. Screens March 17 and 18, 2013.
  •  עלטה / ظلام (Alata/Out in the Dark, Israel/USA, 2012) – Dir. by Michael Mayer. It’s about forbidden love and not just because it involves a homosexual relationship but one between an Israeli and a Palestinian man. I can feel the tension already now. Screens March 19 and 24, 2013. Film’s FB page.
  • My Brother the Devil (UK, 2012) – Dir. by Sally El-Hosaini. I have mentioned this one before – in a Trailer Weekly – and it has lately been getting a lot of exposure, praise as well as awards. Indeed, it feels like the ‘British must-see film’ of the moment. Among other things, it screened at the BFI Film Festival last October, had a UK cinema release and then recently also appeared on the line-up for the BFI Future Film Festival. I didn’t manage to catch any of those showings (I didn’t even hear about the last one until after the event – a real pity since it included a Q&A with the director), so fingers crossed I can make this one. If not, I’m definitely getting the DVD, because a must-see it is.

General booking for the festival opens March 4, 2013. If you have BFI Membership, priority booking is available February 26, if you are BFI Champion, February 25.

Bonus bits: