The 12th New York Korean Film Festival Opens at BAM

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

The 12th New York Korean Film Festival (NYKFF) will showcase record-breaking blockbusters and critically acclaimed indie films created by some of South Korea’s most celebrated filmmakers from Thursday, Nov. 20 through Sunday, Nov. 23.

Co-presented by Subway CinemaBAMcinématek and the Korea Society, NYKFF will screen seven feature films at BAM Rose Cinemas in Brooklyn. In addition, DramaFever will stream two additional films, The Fateful Encounter and M, on its website as an extension of the festival. All films are in the Korean language with English subtitles.

Here are the descriptions for this year’s NYKFF films:

Gyeongju (U.S. Premiere)

Director: Zhang Lu

Cast: Park Hae-il, Shin Mina, Yoon Jin-seo, Kim Tae-hoon, Shin So-yul, Baek Hyun-jin, Ryoo Seung-wan

Screening: Thursday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Opening the festival on Thursday is Director Zhang Lu’s offbeat romantic comedy Gyeongju. The film follows a Peking University professor as he embarks on an impulsive trip to the Korean city of Gyeonju in search of an erotic painting he had seen years ago on the wall of a teahouse. When he arrives at the teahouse, he fails to find the picture and soon befriends the beautiful, mysterious proprietress.

Lu will appear in person for a Q&A session following the screening.

The Attorney

Director: Yang Woo-seok

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Young-ae, Oh Dal-su, Kwak Do-won, Siwan

Screening: Friday, Nov. 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Based on the real-life events of human rights activist and former South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, The Attorney is a court-room drama set in the early 1980s and follows a greedy tax attorney as he takes on the country’s National Security Law by defending a student activist, who was arrested without warrant and tortured by government interrogators.

The film was the most controversial box office hit to be released in 2013 and quickly became the eighth best-selling Korean film of all time.

A Hard Day

Director: Kim Seong-hun

Cast: Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Jin-woong, Jeong Man-sik, Shin Jung-keun, Kim Dong-young, Joo Suk-tae

Screening: Friday, Nov. 21 at 9:30 p.m.

Slick police thriller A Hard Day begins with a detective accidentally running over a stranger with his car while on his way to his mother’s funeral. After hastily stashing the body in his mother’s coffin, the detective receives a call from an anonymous stalker who claims to have witnessed his hit-and-run. Instead of asking for money, the stalker demands to know the body’s whereabouts, causing the detective to desperately cover his tracks.

The Admiral: Roaring Currents

Director: Kim Han-min

Cast: Choi Min-sik, Ryoo Seung-ryong, Cho Jin-woong, Jin Goo, Lee Jung-hyun

Screening: Saturday, Nov. 22 at 6:45 p.m.

Arguably the biggest Korean blockbuster to hit South Korean theaters this year, The Admiral: Roaring Currents depicts the 1597 Battle of Myeongryang and tells the tale of Korea’s most celebrated historical hero, Admiral Yi Sun-shin, who attempts to defend his nation against a formidable Japanese fleet with only 12 battleships at his command.

Man on Heels

Director: Jang Jin

Cast: Cha Seung-won, Oh Jeong-se, Esom, Ko Kyeong-pyo, Ahn Kil-kang, Lee Eon-jeong

Screening: Saturday, Nov. 22 at 9:30 p.m.

Marking the return of Jang Jin, one of Korea’s most inventive writer-directors, Man on Heels is a film noir that follows the story of a cold-blooded homicide detective, who desperately wants to become a woman. However, when the detective decides to move forward with undergoing a sex change operation, his plans get derailed by a gang that is determined to take its revenge against him.

The Pirates

Director: Lee Suk-hoon

Cast: Kim Nam-gil, Son Ye-jin, Yu Hae-jin, Lee Kyoung-young, Kim Tae-woo

Screening: Sunday, Nov. 23 at 4:45 p.m.

Channeling Hollywood’s Pirates of the Carribbeans, Lee Suk-hoon’s swashbuckling period comedy, The Pirates, is set during the dawn of the Joseon Dynasty and follows rival parties of pirates and bandits as they clash to hunt down a gray whale that has swallowed a royal seal. The film features an A-list ensemble cast, including Son Ye-jin as a female pirate captain and Kim Nam-gil as a mountain bandit.

Futureless Things (North American Premiere)

Director: Kim Kyung-mook

Cast: Kim Su-hyeon, Yoo Yeong, Jeong Hye-in, Gong Myeong, Shin Jae-ha

Screening: Sunday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m.

Closing the festival is Futureless Things, an episodic comedy of manners that takes place within the span of 24 hours at a convenience store and gives an intimate glimpse into the intertwined lives of part-timers, college dropouts, North Korean defectors, and social outcasts who occupy the shop.

Director: Lee Myung-se

Cast: Kang Dong-won, Kong Hyo-jin, Lee Yeon-hee

Screening: Streamed online on DramaFever (Nov. 20-23)

M, which premiered at the 2007 Busan International Film Festival, is a visually riveting and expressionistic drama that follows a young novelist, who suffers from writer’s block and insomnia. As the writer falls into a nervous breakdown, he becomes haunted by what appears to be memories of his first love. Filled with dream sequences and hallucinations, M is the closest spectators will ever come to dreaming with their eyes open.

The Fatal Encounter

Director: Lee Jae-kyoo

Cast: Hyun Bin, Jeong Jae-young, Jo Jeong-seok, Jo Jae-hyeon, Han Ji-min

Screening: Streamed online on DramaFever (Nov. 20-23)

Marking Hallyu star Hyun Bin’s first film after being discharged from his military service, The Fatal Encounter follows an elaborate plot to assassinate King Jeongjo of the Joseon Dynasty. Based on a real-life assassination attempt on Jeonjo in 1777, the period film depicts the 24 hours that leads up to the said event and is packed with betrayals and shocking twists.

To learn more about NYKFF or to purchase tickets for a film, visit the BAMcinématek website. Below is a run-down of the festival’s schedule. 

BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Thursday,  November 20
7:30 pm  Gyeongju
With Q&A with Director Zhang Lu

Friday, November 21
7:00 pm  The Attorney
9:30 pm A Hard Day

Saturday, November 22
7:00 p.m. The Admiral: Roaring Currents
9:30 p.m. Man on High Heels

Sunday, November 23
5:30 p.m. The Pirates 
8:00 p.m. Futureless Things