JIFF 2006

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| 6. Shorts |

| 6.1 Animation |

Click to zoom.
The JIFF showed a great number of short films. Many of the works were more obviously student projects, needing to mature or without a budget that would allow them to go further; others would stand out for the ease in the direction or good performances by the actors.

Shorts are more than training for future feature films; they're also alternative ways of expression, allowing telling stories or exposing concepts which might require or work better in the context of a more condensed duration. In what concerns animation, due to the high production costs, sometimes it makes more sense to keep doing shorts than to spend years trying to finance a feature.

Comparatively, the average quality of the animated shorts was superior to the live action ones. That can be explained by what was previously mentioned: in animation it is more frequent that we are not facing school projects or first films (which shouldn't be taken to mean there aren't many good films from people with no previous directorial credits).

There was a screening with nine titles of Korean animation, which resorted to varied techniques and graphic concepts, but also with radically different narrative languages.

Four shorts were 3D, which nowadays is used for the most different visual concepts, including mimicking 2D or cut-out animation. This was the case with Dream Tapir (Komdokaepi, 10'), graduation film by Lee Yeong-seok, from the Korean National University of Arts, about a child whose nightmares are fought by a friendly Tapir.

Dirty Popin (Geoji Popin, 7') reminds, in a way, the animation and humour style of Pixar productions. It is a short story, with effective animation and character design, and it is funny. In the more serious The Chamber (or Cheimbeo, in hangeul phonetic, 5') an old man interacts with a model of a room and strange things start to happen. It's an interesting mind game, which would be improved with a stronger ending. It sort of goes down when it needs to finish.

Still in 3D, BULLET (or Beullit, 7') was the worst of these titles; a story similar with the sperms sketch from Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex..., here with a bullet refusing to be shot. The 3D is too plastic and the character design relatively unattractive.

There were a relevant number of female directors, without the requirement of gender quotas. Female sensibility produced good results in what concerns the use of 2D techniques. One of the best shorts was Mom and Me (Eommahago Nahago, 7'), by Lee Hyo-jeong, in claymation. Simple and amusing, deals with a mother trying to teach/force her son to fit the correct shapes on a box. The director used a German voice (untranslated) to reinforce the authoritarian tone, as she later explained on the Q&A following the screening.

My Small Dollhouse (Naeui Jakeun Inhyeongsangja, 8') is another work from a female director (no one was surely expecting men to make films about dollhouses), Jeong Yu-mi, being her graduation film, although already her second work. The retro art fits a somewhat surreal atmosphere which if a reflection of the loneliness of the main character.

Shin Yeong-jae (Deborah Younjae Shin) directed the poetic Lost and Found (Loseuteu en Paundeu, transcribing hangeul, 10'), the story of a young woman, her umbrella and the wave lenght between them. The film is made using pencil sketches which are a pleasure to watch once in a while, amidst the profusion of digital. It's the fourth film of the authoress.

The Stranger (Deo Seuteureinjyeo, hangeulised, 6') is more relevant by the technique used (black and white with brushes) than for its not very interesting essay about a sort-of primitive man who cuts a three and creates a woman from the wood. But she prefers to return to nature.

The Life (with the longish original title Saneun Geot, Sandaneun Geot, Salagandaneun Geot, 5'), uses crayons but some 3D. It's effective in building atmosphere around abstractions and the memories of its character. Second film by director Ryu Jin-ho.

Dream Tapir, My Small Dollhouse, BULLET, The Life e Mom and Me had their world premiere at the JIFF.

| 6.1 Live Action |

The live action Korean shorts where screened in five sections: 1 - Critic's Choice, 2 – To Be/a Woman, 3 – Politics/Performance, 4 – The Conclusion of Fantasy, 5 – The principle of Anxiety. The films here briefly commented belong to sections 1, 3 e 5, and all were shot in digital video, except when noted otherwise.

On a first set of shorts, there was a majority of well defined scripts, with a story to tell, with the exception of the very short Trivial Feelings (Nuguna Geureotdaneun, 6', 16mm), more concerned with mood and in capturing the introspections of two characters.

Seoul Ballad (top) and Excellent Work.
Gahee & B.W. (Gaheeoa BH, 22”) has an interesting premise: a boy returns to call upon a girl he loved unrequitedly to ask all the gifts back, to destroy them and by that process to eliminate past memories and to become free from a relationship that never was.

Seoul Ballad (Seoul Balladeu, 25”) is a straightforward romantic comedy with characters we don't have any problem sympathising with, but which ends up being simply light. Nothing wrong with that. The action takes place on a train heading to Seoul and the dialogues are between a soldier who dreams being a film maker and a girl that goes to the city to become "hair designer".

In Burning Coal on His Head (Meori Uieo Sutbul, 50”), a taxi driver is killed when he picks up a hit man whom had just finished a job. The son of the driver goes around in his father's cab looking for clues which would lead him to the author of the crime. There's enough material here to expand into a history of vengeance in feature film format, but it ends up being quite balanced in its not-so-short duration.

The best of all the shorts I had the opportunity to see was Excellent Work (Cham! Chalhaesseoyo, 20”, 35mm), which had a full professional look, above the average of the other works. This is due not just for being shot in good old 35mm, but also to the direction of the actors — and the children's work is essential for the film to work —, and general technical quality. The main characters are two primary school girls whose parents are supposedly emigrated. The older, of limited intelligence, will suffer abuse at the hands of someone that was expected to be trustable and the younger one will bear the weight of that memory over the years. Years later we'll meet them again. There's a feeling of helplessness and bitterness, which the film treats with nerve-breaking irony. I'm waiting to see more from director Jeong Da-mi, hopefully a feature.

In the political section, we saw two documentaries and a more experimental film, Party Politics Strike Back (Jeongdang Jeongchi-eui Yeokseup, 25', 16mm). Surreal humour, but overlong and repetitive, even if the fake naïveté has its charm. The history of a scientist who transforms a monkey into a man (!), is chased by government forces (?), and then helped by three women armed with plastic weapons. Pastiche with no dialogs.

Party Politics Strike Back (top) and
We Are All Goo Bon-ju.
The documentaries previously mentioned were We Are All Goo Bon-ju (Uri Moduga Gubonjuda, 24') and The Structure of Goliath (Golliat-eui Gujo, 27'). The first is about a case of an artist (Goo Bon-ju) who died on a car accident and the insurance company (Samsung Fire Insurance Co. Ltd.) did what it could to avoid paying the widow what she was supposed to receive. The film shows the contrast between the public images of companies that want to appear as patrons of the arts with the way that it will treat artists that are their clients (the occupation was one of the reasons used to try to pay just a small amount of money). According to the JIFF catalogue, the documentary could only play on television with all the references to Samsung censored.

The Structure of Goliath shows the inhabitants of an area set for redevelopment fighting against demolitions. The promises made to them concerning access to new houses were revealed to have been way too optimistic and they decided to stay. Even the police was against them and the constructors appear using violent tactics to try to remove them.

Under the theme "Principle of Anxiety" four shorts were shown. The films, which could be labelled arthouse, focused on relationships of love or friendship in a context of "social realism". All were relatively well directed. Confession (Gobaek, 35'), about a couple who discusses violently and has difficulties communicating, suffers from the problem of many shorts: it keeps going beyond what would be necessary to tell the story and we feel like participating in the arguments.

The other films in this screening were Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Goaerakwonchikeul Neomeoseo, 18'), following two friends relationship during a trip, Waiting for Passion (Uyeonhan Yeoljeongeuro Norae Bureuda Bomyeon, 19'), about a girl waiting to meet someone that never seems to be available, and Period of Contraception (Soseolga-eui Pi-im, 20'), about a young couple having to deal with pregnancy.

| 6.1.1 Local cinema |

Under a new section called Local Cinema in Jeonju five films were shown, selected from those recommended by four local film festivals. The directors are referenced has "working consistently" in the city.

Help Me (Helpeu Mi, 14'), mixes ingredients from several film genres — director Kim Mun-heom said he wanted it to be like the famous local dish, bibimbap —, in a structure with a twist familiar from some popular thrillers. A story of gangsters and past memories, with humour and even intense martial arts action, which is at least entertaining.

Amidst the shorter films, Red-ripe Persimmon (Hongsi, 10') focus on the uncertainties of a pregnang girl which ponders abortion and A Singer Josephina (Gaju Yojepina-Hokeun Jui-eui Iljok, 6') is a metaphorical fantasy, on a opera house for mice (actually actors with a long tale).

What about Love? (Na-eui Gajok, 16') left me with less faded memories, with its well-told story about an adolescent girl, on a country town, in love with a man that works on the local library.

Last day of the JIFF. Left to right: Yu Un-seong and Jeong Su-wan (programmers), Ming Byeong-rok (festival director); Im Jae-cheol, Kim Yeong-nam, Kim Hye-na e Lee Sang-wu (producer, director and two of the actors from the closing film, Don't Look Back.

III — Prizes

Indie Vision – Woosuk Award: Drifting States, Denis Côté
Special comment: Smiling in a War Zone – The Art of Flying to Kabul, Magnus Bejmar and Simone Aaberg Kaern

Digital Spectrum – JJ-Star Award: Stories from the North, Uruphong Raksasad
Special Comment: The White She-Camel, Xavier Christiaens, and 11,000km from New York, Orzu Sharipov

Cinemascape / Cinema Palace: JIFF Favourites: Veer-Zaara, Yash Chopra

Korean Cinema on the Move: Audience Critics Award: Shocking Family, Kyung-soon

CGV Korean Independent Feature Film Distribution Support Award: Between, Lee Chang-jae

Cinedie Asia would like to thank the JIFF organization,
especially Ms. Song Seung-min.

Korean Foundation
With the support of the Korea Foundation


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