This review is part of the K-Animation Season on Otherwhere. These shorts screened as part of the Puchan International Fantastic Film Festival this year. A special 감사합니다 goes to the Korean Film Council and the directors for granting access via Kobiz’s online Festival Screenings option.
The Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (PiFan) has made it its mission to screen films from “marginalized genres” (quote from PiFan website), showcasing in particular works that fall outside the popular cinematic realm of comedy, drama and action. On the programme this year were some fantastic shorts, two of which were made available online (restricted access only).
Shorts, animated but also otherwise, are a strange thing: they differ from feature-length productions and certainly within animation often exist to explore the artistic medium rather than to narrate a story or entertain. The average viewer might find them pointless, but at the same time shorts can raise interesting questions about conventions, both in terms of what is made (and how) and what we watch. With an animation industry that is simply not known outside national borders and has no full-fledged identity like the world of Japanese anime does, yeonghwa manhwa shorts are seeds of potential that give a glimpse of Korean animation could be.
Title: 심부름 (Simbuleum/An Errand)
Director: Kim Na-heun
Runtime: 4 min
The title indicates what Kim Na-heun’s short is all about: a little boy is sent on an errand for the first time. The film depicts the experience of the child with a task that may seem mundane to adults, but is harrowing for the boy. Kim’s short is all about conveying that feeling, using exclusively the perspective of the child as he enters the shop, where a huge man stands behind a tall counter, flanked by jars filled with ogling eyeballs, creepy-crawly centipedes and strung-up rats hiding in the store’s abundant shadows. Kim succeeds in creating an eerie atmosphere, leaving us to wonder whether it is a true shop of horrors that the boy enters, or just his imagination that has gone wild in fear. Kim also uses a drawing style that doesn’t follow the typical art of more mainstream animation, something that is always refreshing. The limited colour scheme too does much to enhance the boy’s sense of terror. At four minutes, it’s a snippet of a story but one that gets me interested enough to look out for the director’s future creations.
About the director: Kim Na-heun (b. 1989) studied Animation at Hongik University. Simbuleum is her graduation film.
Title: 나무의 시간 (Namuui Sigan/The Hours of Trees)
Alternative title (French): Le temps de l’arbre
Country: South Korea/France
Director: Jung Da-hee
Runtime: 8 min
Jung Da-hee, a French-trained Korean animator, describes her film as follows: “Observing life cycles of trees, I could figure out differences and resemblances between trees and humans. This film is a collection of stories that are inspired by these various lives.”
Namuui Sigan is falls into the ‘creative’ and ‘artistic’ category and is the kind of animation that plays with the genre itself. It uses both drawings (very watercolour like) and real images, and tells no story. We see imagination pure: heads grow from the ground, treemen (some with branches for a head, others with roots for feet) wander around, shadows turn into a sun clock. It’s the sort of film that always exists as a short, the kind you might come across in an art museum more so than in a cinema. While that is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, it is something that pushes boundaries – and that can be a good thing.
About the director: Jung Da-hee has a Master’s in Animation from the Ecole nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (France). La chambre noire (2011) is another film by her.