Over the past two weeks, the 11th London Korean Film Festival 2016, organised by the Korean Cultural Center UK, have showcased more than 60 Korean films in different theatres across the city. These movies ranged from blockbusters released in 2015/2016, historical and contemporary documentaries, short films, classics by filmmaker Lee Chang Ho 이장호 and also animation which catered to the younger audience.
This year, the festival was also graced by a few very special guests like Director Kim Sung Soo 김성수 and actor Jung Woo Sung 정우성 from Asura: The City of Madness 아수라 (2016) who held a dialogue at SOAS University of London.
Each year, the festival also seeks to highlight certain works and contribution by renowned actors, actresses or filmmakers in the Korean film industry. This year, the festival focused on Baek Yoon Sik 백윤식 with five of his movies. These include the comedy horror movie Save the Green Planet 지구를 지켜라 (2003), Art of Fighting 싸움의 기술 (2006) and the recent political thriller film Inside Men 내부자들 (2015) which was adapted from a webtoon.
Following the record-smashing zombie apocalypse movie Train to Busan 부산행 (2016), prequel animation film Seoul Station 서울역 (2016) was also screened during the festival. Amongst the great hits of 2015/2016 including The Last Princess 덕혜옹주 (2016) and Asura: The City of Madness, The Phantom Detective 탐정 홍길동 (2016) caught my eye with the title and the well-known casts from television dramas like Signal 시그널 (2016) and Reply 1994 응답하라 1994 (2013).
Indeed, the thriller film starred rising actor Lee Je Hoon 이제훈 who received many praises of his acting in Signal alongside veteran actress Kim Hye Soo 김혜수. In both works, Lee has displayed an alluring detective charm which is bound to leave you absorbed in his character as he unravelled the mysteries. However, in this film, he portrayed a young genius detective who was constantly seeking for his mother’s killer, seeking for revenge. After his mother tragic death, he grew up devoid of love and was emotionally trapped to locate the killer. However, as he finally got hold of the killer’s identity, he realised that someone else got to the killer before he did.
The movie was set in the 1980s as the main character, Hong Gil Dong 홍길동 (Lee Je Hoon) becomes a modern iteration of the Korean folk hero of the same name who was known for his intelligence and crime-solving skills. Many of the sets were specially created to match the plot and confer suspense that kept the audience on the edge of their seats throughout. While the story became darker as it brought back a bloody feud from the past, the movie remained light with few heart-warming and funny moments between the trio, Hong and two young grand-daughters of the killer. The younger child definitely stole the limelight for her candid personality.
Overall, the movie was fast-paced and meticulously planned with clues dropping along the way for the sharp viewers watching. At times, plot progression may have been interrupted by abrupt scene changes which left the audience to “fill in the gap”. Kim’s dark and ruthless character also left a deep impression on the audience as his presence became associated with fear and power. The Phantom Detective has yet to be released in Singapore but till then, keep this movie on the list to watch!
By November 17, the film festival would come to an end in London. However, audience from other parts of the UK can still catch a few shortlisted movies in their cities. Do keep a lookout on Korean Cultural Center UK website for updates leading to the next film festival in 2017.
The Fifth Parlour would like to thank Korean Cultural Center UK and the London Korean Film Festival for the invitation.