“The Kinship of 2 Korean Directors” – That may sound like a board, association or society which has been set up, but it’s not… at least as far as I know (!)
I was actually going to use the word of “Comradery” or indeed “Camaraderie” but perhaps its historical and military origins put me off. So, I changed the word to make fun of it instead… But not making fun of WAR, you understand.
Plus, the “K” in Kinship probably sealed the deal, to match that of the word “Korean”, of course.
Firstly, @MiniMiniMovies [Twitter – self-promotion! ㅋㅋㅋ] will state this fact though, and that is… this is less of an article about the relationship between directors, Korean ones in general – although I’m sure it ‘goes on’ everywhere, within Korea and the world – but a particular meeting of minds, and from where I was seated, hearts too.
A meeting of hearts, passioned ones and passion for film* is what I and the audience probably, also, witnessed over the first few days of this year’s LONDON KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL.
(*I’m not referring to us journalists BUT see the ‘FRIENDLY’ FOOTNOTE at the FOOT of this article for my somewhat over-affectionate ode to us writers, journalists, bloggers etc etc and ‘Asian film collective’, let’s call it… but there is a heavy emphasis on “FRIENDLY”!)
You see, not only did we have in our company many ‘VIPs’ from the LKFF and KCCUK, and indeed the Korean Film Archive (and check out the many, many FREE films on their YouTube channel!), but also TWO “BIG” NAMES in Korean cinema from the past… well… past many, many years. But let’s remember that this 2019 and 15th edition and “Special Focus” strand is hitting us with the ‘tagline‘, “A CENTURY OF KOREAN CINEMA”.
Therefore, maybe it’s no surprise who our guests and those TWO names are at this moment in time.
It is [or was, depending on when you read this] Kim Soo-yong (김수용) AND Chung Ji-young (정지영).
Sure, we’ve had auteurs in the UK before – to name a giant one, Mr IM Kwon-taek (here’s our/MMM’s interview!) – but perhaps not the same as either Mr KIM or CHUNG, and definitely not when putting the TWO together!
That combination I speak of is not just astounding due to their output of films – Kim Soo-yong has made over 109 films and commenced all that move-making in the 1950’s & Chung Ji-young, who is still making movies, started being involved with films (although has also directed many TV episodes) in the 1970’s, as – ironically or coincidentally – Kim Soo-yong’s very own Assistant Director!
So, it’s surely no surprise they have a friendship which goes beyond life solely in the film business.
It’s this friendship or relationship which really shone through at the start of this year’s London Korean Film Festival.
Whether it was comments made on the Opening Night at Regent Street Cinema, in which we were treated to the lovely 1965 film by Kim Soo-yong entitled “The Seashore Village” or events which followed in the next 48 hours or so, it was clear what affection that elderly individual has, for his own films, cinema itself, companions and friends.
Now in his 90’s he gets around by wheelchair and is clearly quite frail. That said, his spirit is strong, it seems and although he may have cancelled or declined interviews with Press, and understandably so, he wasn’t going to miss his own films on the big screen, nor let the attendees down. Mr Kim was also not going to let his fellow filmmaker and friend, Chung Ji-young, down and in fact was happy to sit through one of that director’s LONG films, “North Korean Partisan in South Korea” [screened on the 2nd day of the LKFF].
Speaking, or rather writing of being happy to sit through films, he was also determined to do the same on more than one occasion. Yes, the other time I saw him stay for a film was that aforementioned film and his own flick, “The Seashore Village”.
Being almost and kindly ushered out after his involvement with introducing said film, he stopped the pushing of his wheelchair by saying something in Korean [my Korean knowledge is only at a beginner’s level, if that at times!] and after him reiterating these words to the organisers and/or volunteers he was taken back to his position in the front row of the auditorium.
Yep, he clearly wanted to remain and watch his own masterpiece.
Seeing such an old man remain to see his own film, one which was made back in 1965 made me feel quite sentimental, sort of sad & happy… melancholic perhaps. How sweet, I thought.
Even after the film, he was still lively or as best he could be and still filled with life and spoke of NOT himself staying or remaining to watch the visual, monochrome feast but of US, the audience. Well, he remarked about the fact that we had the interest and intrigue, and maybe tolerance [not his words, but it’s what MMM took away from what was spoken and translated] to keep seated and see the film through until the end “because in countries such as France & Italy many of the audience members left before the end of the screening” [MMM paraphrasing!]. I should say that one or two individuals did leave, but I don’t think it was in the numbers he was referring to.
Ultimately, and taking both that 1st night and the 2nd day of the festival into account, Mr Kim Soo-yong seemed to be the example of a lovely man.
On to Chung Ji-young, yet still connected to Kim Soo-yong [after all, this article is primarily about their friendship or kinship etc etc], there were a couple of occasions when he showed his determination to stay in a seat or position of his choosing rather than one allocated to him, as well as displaying his affection for auteur Mr Kim, and vice versa.
Indeed, for his own film, “North Korean Partisan in South Korea” Mr Chung Ji-young chose to sit a few rows back, higher up than his ‘VIP’ allocated seating at the front. Did he simply want to get a great position by which to view the movie or just become like one of the audience, like us ‘standard’ punters or press? That said, I was actually in the front row, but not as a VIP… haha… and I hadn’t taken his seat, I will add!!
Later though, when his seat of choice, or requirements (!), was one of a higher plain, literally… yes, up on the stage in front of the screen… he had lots to say and things which would tell us about his work in both documentaries & fiction – thanks to the always brilliant Mr Mark Morris and his questions (along with translator Seh, of course!) – and affirm his friendship with Kim Soo-yong.
Wearing a raincoat, with what seemed to be a large collar, Chung Ji-young supplied us with a story or anecdote about that very attire. He told us of the day’s events or one of them, at least, and that being one of a shopping nature, and to be precise a John Lewis store…! Yes, Kim Soo-yong had bought Chung Ji-young that big coat… and I think perhaps a joke about the British weather [that day anyway] may have been alluded to… That said, in Korea – if indeed they’d flown from there – it wouldn’t be warm there either in this month of November!
That little story ended with him saying that he bought Kim Soo-yong a cap/hat in return, pointing to Mr Kim himself, in the front row, on this Opening Night.
I think this speech and shopping tale or the actions themselves touched Chung Ji-young and Kim Soo-yong. They certainly did ME! It made both the Korean, British and [probably] international audience chuckle also.
And talking of being touched, another demonstration of such comradeship, kinship, friendship and… errr… ‘filmship’… was when the two of them arrived for this Opening Night. Why? Well, not only was “I” touched by the following sight I witnessed but the action of TOUCH was taken that much further by director Chung Ji-young being the man to PUSH director Kim Soo-yong in his wheelchair as they arrived.
See You Later, [or “L’asia”?] & That’s all, Filks*!
(But… that’s NOT all, Filks*…!)
If you thought this article was going to be about something else or from another angle, it is… because I’m adding this little piece of connected information to it!
It may be clear when you peruse over MiniMiniMovie.com that not only have we been covering the London Korean Film Festival for almost a decade, as well as other Film Festivals, Asian film events, Korean Cultural Centre (KCCUK) events and more.
Well, it’s these events, and no more so than the London Korean Film Festival and Korean related events, which have brought us MMM writers [OK, essentially that’s I, Jason Verney aka NativeNomadPictures.com] together with other Korean cinephiles, cineastes or ‘Koreanastes’! Yes… there are quite a few of us who share a kind of kinship, comradeship, relationship and above all FRIENDSHIP.
I was thinking at the reception on the Opening Night, and indeed earlier that day when I had ventured to the Korean Cultural Centre, how so many faces seem unchanged even if these are ones which have been involved for about a decade. Are we ageing gracefully [if maybe our articles aren’t? Speaking of my own there!…;)]
Take people who work at that KCCUK itself, like Mr Paul Wadey – who, incidentally, kicked off that evening’s proceedings – and good friend, Mr Philip Gowman, who although wasn’t present on that first night but may as well BE someone who also works at the KCCUK [well, he does run the ‘over-informative’ & overly-accurate LondonKoreanLinks.net after all], they LOOK, to me, just the same ‘as they’ve always have’…!
Then there is the ever-present and truly remarkable, translator Seh – so, so many events which also include Raindance and that ‘infamous’ Terracotta Far East Film Festival & private or round-table ‘star’ & director interviews – and, although for not quite as long as a whole decade, there’s Hyun Jin Cho, the curator / Festival Director of the London Korean Film Festival.
Now, you may not know this next guy. His name is Ikin, and Ikin Yun to be precise, and he’s almost the stalwart photographer for, well, not just the London Korean Film Festival but other festivals, events and even weddings! Who is he? What is my connection to him? Well, having already established a bit of a relationship with him prior to 2012 [going by my memory here… It fails sometimes!] what with he being a photographer and myself a videographer, I asked him to jump on board and assist me in filming that ‘comfort women’ musical, “Gumok” all those years ago (footage of this can be found on my YouTube channel & elsewhere, not to mention on hard-drives of mine!).
I can’t attend a KCCUK, LKFF or K-Music event etc without bumping into Ikin [not literally, as that would turn a potentially professional photo into a clumsy & amateur one! ㅋㅋㅋ] and exchanging a smile or sharing a brief conversation.
Back on track though and onto other ‘Filmic Friends & Fanatics’. Other ones who, just like Mr Gowman, meet for all such events and MORE! Yes… be that Korean meals, Art or Literature events, birthdays, coffee catch-ups, collaborations, covering Korean/Asian/Human Rights events, sharing personal issues and even, for some of us, catching up in other countries and/or film festivals. I suppose that’s why a few of those mentioned got together and formed the London Asian Film Society.
So, to the ‘unsung’ yet ageless pals of mine, and just like COMRADES [*shudder* – I hate to use that word], to you guys, “I SALUTE YOU“!
Some of those ageless Film Folk Friends, in no particular order (and there are some neglected, I’m sure):
Paul Quinn (http://www.HangulCelluloid.com)
Philip Gowman (https://LondonKoreanLinks.net)
Colette Balmain (https://orientalnightmares.wordpress.com)
Hayley Scanlon (https://windowsonworlds.com)
Diya Mi (https://diyaonkorea.com)
Wai Lu Yin (https://sumgyeojingem.com)
Andrew Heskins (https://easternKicks.com)
Anna ‘K’… [We can never NOT miss you… for various reasons!]
Israel Ser Caballero
London Asian Film Society (https://www.facebook.com/LondonAsianFilmSociety/)
* Filks. A combination of Film and Folks.