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Korean International Film Festival in Australia 2012

THERE’S no escaping the rise of Korean entertainment – so why even try? But for the cynics, Hieu Chau’s come up with a few reasons why you should connect with the culture at this year’s Korean International Film Festival in Australia.

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In the past decade, Korean cinema has risen to international prominence and has helped popularise the country overseas. The Hallyu wave – a term used to describe the increasing popularity of Korea and Korean culture through its biggest entertainment exports: music, film and television – has taken over the hearts and minds of many around the world, including those in Australia.

Kieran Tully, festivals manager and artistic director for KOFFIA 2012, is more than glad to see an increasing amount of Australians are keen to learn more about Korean cinema.

“We are very excited to be back in Melbourne once more and of course after that leg we will move on to Brisbane for the very first time,” he says.

“Basically, we are just going where the demand takes us and it’s great to see so much interest in the festival and Korean cinema.”

This will be the second time KOFFIA will have screenings in Melbourne. The film festival was formerly exclusive to Sydney but ever since its inception, KOFFIA has added a new hosting city every year.

This year, the theme of the festival is “Discover Your Connection”, a fitting motto particularly for those new to the culture and cinema of Korea.

“We want people to realise that there are other people out there that shared the same interests, and we want people to use KOFFIA as a medium to share in this passion. It’s all about discovering how you are connected” says Tully.

Reflecting this theme, of course, are the very films themselves. Tully says each film has been categorised in such a way as to show off the range of movies audiences can enjoy.

“We have really expanded our line up for KOFFIA 2012 which includes 20 features, 15 of which screen in Melbourne,” he says.

One of the categories is called Panorama, which covers a wide selection of the latest features to come out of Korea. From comedies like Sunny to war epics like The Frontline, there’s a bit of everything to capture in Panorama.

A retrospective of sorts, Modern Classics covers contemporary Korean films that have made an indelible mark on Korean cinema. Among these are the revenge thriller Oldboy, the melodramatic Christmas in August and the beautifully artistic Spring Summer Autumn Winter… and Spring.

Documentarians, on the other hand, can look forward to the experimental Arirang (Sydney-only) and the music documentary The Reason Why I Step.

But a genre Korea has truly excelled in over the last several years is the mystery genre, aptly labelled K-Mystery for the film festival. Wannabe detectives will enjoy this year’s selection of Bleak Night, Silenced and The Client.

And anyone who has ever seen an episode of Running Man, a wildly popular variety show in Korea, you’ll know Koreans have a great sense of humour. K-Comedy will highlight the brazen characters and absurd situations so characteristic of this genre through films such as Scandal Makers and All About My Wife .

Last but not least, KOFFIA will be introducing Korean animation to Australia for the first time by showing off two contrasting films – the children’s feature Leafie: A Hen in the Wild and the more adult-oriented The King of Pigs.

While Tully summarises Korean cinema as bold and daring, he concedes some people might mistake it as being violent.

“While there is no doubt that Korea has some violent films, the films that top the box office every year are often comedies or romantic melodramas, ” he says.

He says the best thing about Korean cinema is the fact their films expand across various genres.

“A crime story will be filled with comedy, a love story filled with drama, so you can a have bit of everything,” he enthuses.

In addition to the films screening at KOFFIA, organisers have also planned forums, cultural activities and giveaways for visitors wanting to get the most out of the KOFFIA experience.

“From traditional dances to modern pop performances, we are trying to immerse people in the culture of Korea,” he says.

“We also have a number of industry forums which take a more deeper look into the world of Korean cinema.”

So, with plenty to see and do at KOFFIA 2012, this September is the ideal time to discover your own connection with Korean cinema.

KOFFIA will be screening in Melbourne at ACMI Cinemas between September 8 – 12. Tickets have yet to go on sale for Melbourne screenings but for up-to-date information about the film festival, follow KOFFIA on Twitter, @KOFFIA2012, or refer to their official website.

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