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KOFFIA 2013: The Many Faces of Korean Cinema

Hieu Chau

Fri Aug 23 2013


THE Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) returns to Melbourne for another exciting year of the latest films from Korea. Hieu Chau spoke with the festival’s Artistic Director, Kieran Tully, to learn more about KOFFIA 2013.


From September 5 – 11, those with a particular thirst for Korean film will be able consume some of the year’s most popular and successful films all on the big screen. Starting originally in Sydney, the Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) has been running for four years now and will return this year for its third Melbourne run.

As interest in Korean culture becomes more and more noticeable, so does KOFFIA’s popularity, as the film festival has quickly grown in status in its own right. With interest, however, comes strong demand for the absolute latest in Korean cinema – and indeed for all things Korean – which is something that has been a point of contention between audiences and KOFFIA’s Artistic Director, Kieran Tully.

“Each year, a number of our audience will ask us [why we couldn’t screen a particular film], as people are used to consuming any Korean content they want due to the high amount of illegal and legal downloads available,” Mr Tully says.

While it does show that audiences are genuinely enthused with the festival and of Korean film, the main challenge Tully faces is having to explain why “[the film festival] could not get access to further films due to them simply not being available.”

“[We would have loved to have screened] films such as Secretly Greatly, Cold Eyes and Snowpiercer but the distributors simply weren’t able to offer them to us.”


Opening the film festival is the smash hit film, A Werewolf Boy – the perfect example of Korean cinema’s penchant for cross-genre filmmaking. Image provided by KOFFIA.

With this year’s theme concerning itself with “The Many Faces of Korean Cinema”, Tully elaborates that spotlighting the personalities that make up Korean cinema was as important as providing a diverse line-up of films for the festival.

“The Korean industry has a very strong star system and we wanted to reflect this to indicate to audiences that they can see all of their favourite stars on the big screen of KOFFIA.”

One of Korea’s most recognisable female faces, Gianna Jun, appears in two of KOFFIA’s screened films this year: The Thieves and The Berlin File. Cut from the same cloth as some of Hollywood’s blockbuster action films, both films certainly give Hollywood a run for its money.


A Korean and Chinese co-production, The Thieves is a lavish, action-comedy heist flick that gives Hollywood a run for its money. Image provided by KOFFIA.

The Thieves is a wildly fun action heist film that plays out like a Korean version of Ocean’s Eleven. Boasting impressive production value and featuring a stacked cast made up of familiar Korean and Chinese faces, The Thieves does a grand job of showcasing a side of Korean cinema that people mightn’t have thought possible. It will be closing the festival in particularly grand fashion.

As for The Berlin File, this espionage action thriller is as serious as The Bourne Identity and its following sequels. Featuring some very slick action sequences, particularly with one great fight towards the end, this film could easily be mistaken for an American production. The film’s main star, Ha Jung-woo, will also be appearing in Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time.

In addition to the celebrity factor, spotlighting the visionaries behind the camera was equally important to Tully.

“Unlike Australia where many filmmakers struggle to make a second feature, Korea features many filmmakers that make regular feature films, so we wanted to represent them through our programming,” he says.

Korean auteur Kim Ki-duk brings the darkly religious film, Pieta to Melbourne. Image provided by KOFFIA.

Director Kim Ki-duk has long been a mainstay in Korean arthouse cinema and was highlighted in last year’s edition of KOFFIA. This year, the director returns with his controversial film, Pieta. Tully is particularly excited for Melbourne to see this film as he feels Melbourne “always has a very savvy audience” that’s more appreciative of the darker content that Korean cinema puts out.

These days though, Tully’s favourite films aren’t the feature-length mainstays showcased at KOFFIA but rather short films emerging from many of Korea’s prestigious film schools.

“This emerging generation of filmmakers has grown up watching the films of [prominent directors like Park Chan-wook, Bong Joon-ho and Kim Ji-woon] and they have been inspired to push Korean film even further. I definitely expect in the next few years for us to be talking about a number of new names in the same vein as [the filmmakers previously mentioned]”.

For the first time in Melbourne, KOFFIA will be bringing short films to the city with its K-Shorts Showcase. Here, Melbourne audiences can catch short films from both established veteran filmmakers and relative newcomers alike.


Affectionately made and brimming with heartfelt humour, Miracle in Cell. No 7 looks to be a surefire crowd-pleaser with KOFFIA audiences. Image provided by KOFFIA.

Take for example, director Moon Byoung-gon who was recently awarded a Palme d’Or – the highest award a film can receive at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival – for his short film, Safe, making him the first Korean to receive the prestigious award. Safe will be screening as a part of the K-Shorts Showcase alongside Moon’s other short film, Finis Operis.

The films only scratch the surface though, as plenty of cultural events have also been planned to accompany the many films at KOFFIA 2013. These include a Pajama Party for the film Watcha’ Wearin, a K-Pop Showcase for the documentary 9 Muses of Star Empire and a photobooth snap shot with the characters of Miracle in Cell No. 7. In the case of the costumed events, the best-dressed will have the opportunity to win a prize pack.

With 2013 already having been a banner year for Korean cinema – what with three of the country’s most popular directors making their feature film debuts and the various accolades that the country has been accumulating across the globe – KOFFIA 2013 looks like it will be a great entry point for those looking to expand upon their Korean cultural curiosity.

KOFFIA 2013 will take place from September 5 to September 11. All films will be screened exclusively at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).

Tickets can be purchased directly through KOFFIA’s official website or directly at the venue box office. The full program of films and schedule can also be found at KOFFIA’s official website.