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Harvesting culture on screen: Korean Film Festival in Australia 2015 Highlights

Natalie Ng

Fri Aug 21 2015


FANS of the Korean wave should not miss the chance to see their favourite stars light up the big screen at this year’s Korean Film Festival in Australia. Film buff Natalie Ng offers her recommended picks from the festival.


The Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) returns for its sixth year and brings with it the very best in Korean cinema within the past year.

Supporting KOFFIA’s striving for quality Korean films that showcase the country’s culture, history and ideas is the festival’s theme this year, “Harvest” which has been cleverly implemented in the festival’s gorgeous poster.

Designed and illustrated by talented Chinese designer Patrick Tao, the poster depicts a traditional ox-drawn cart carrying reels of Korean films over the bridge to Australia.

With almost 20,000 people attending the festival over the last five years, fans of the Korean Wave (or the Hallyu Wave) won’t want to miss out on a chance to catch their favourite K-drama or K-pop stars on a giant cinema screen.

Currently travelling around Australia, the festival’s Melbourne leg will take place from September 3 – 10 at its usual location at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) over at Federation Square.

From period epics, gangster films, arthouse dramas and romantic comedies, there is definitely something in the lineup for everyone. With only one week in Melbourne, and 20 films screened during that time, here are some picks from the lineup to make your choice a little easier.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Starring South Korean legends Choi Min-sik (Oldboy) and Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell No.7) in a Joseon era military epic, The Admiral: Roaring Currents is currently the top-grossing film of all time at the South Korean box office.

The film tells the story of the most revered military strategist in Korean history, Lee Soon-shin. Using his intimate knowledge of the Korean seas and its currents, Lee must devise a strategy to defend the Korean peninsula, with only 13 ships, from the Japanese naval fleet that boasts more than 300 ships.

This is an incredible piece of South Korean history that needs to be seen to be believed.

Han Gong-ju


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This small indie film broke out in Korea thanks to the revelatory lead performance from Chun Woo-hee and its startling and deeply disturbing subject matter.

Part coming-of-age story and part mystery due its narrative structure, Han Gong-ju follows its titular character as she moves from her hometown and to her former teacher’s home in another town to escape a scandal. The trauma of her past makes it a struggle to open up to her new friends in her new school.

The mystery over Gong-ju’s transfer is slowly revealed over the course of the film and when the final chips fall, audiences are likely to be utterly horrified and heartbroken at the same time.



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Inspired by a true incident from 2007, Cart is at once a family drama and a work of social commentary that tells the story of Sun-hee, a temporary worker in a large supermarket chain trying to make ends meet while raising her two children. In order to bypass a law that requires employees be given regular worker status after a certain period, all temporary workers including Sun-hee are laid off.

The usually passive Sun-hee bands together with the other women as they go on strike and protest against the company’s unscrupulous actions. As Sun-gee discovers within herself a strength she never realized she had, her already difficult relationship with her teenage son Tae-yong becomes even more strained.

Fans of K-pop group EXO should be interested in this film as Tae-yong is played by Do Kyung-soo (known by his stage name as D.O.) who lends his voice to the closing theme of the movie.



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Director Shin Su-won’s Madonna was selected to screen in the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

The film follows Hae-rim, a nurse working in the VIP ward for the ultra wealthy. One of her patients is a billionaire tycoon who has been paralyzed by a stroke. His son Sang-woo, is a greedy wastrel who has done everything to keep his father alive so that his father’s entire fortune can’t be given to charities upon his death.

When his father needs a heart, Sang-woo tasks Hae-rim to track down the next of kin to sign the organ donation consent form for a car crash victim: a brain dead pregnant woman named Mi-na. As Hae-rim delves into Mi-na’s unfortunate life, the story exposes and comments upon the dark side of a woman’s place in society.

KOFFIA will take place in Melbourne from September 3-10 at ACMI. The festival’s official Facebook page will feature up to date news and competitions that will enhance the film festival experience.

Tickets go from between $11 for ACMI members to $16. Students get a concession rate of $12.50. A 6-session pass is available for purchase at ACMI’s box office.

Tickets can be purchased at ACMI’s box office or online at KOFFIA’s official website. More information about the festival including a full look at its program can also be found at its official site.