Sunday, 12 April 2009

[172] The 11th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul Preview

Currently happening in Seoul is the 11th International Women's Film Festival. Here is the festival preview article I wrote for the latest issue of Film & Festivals Magazine. To see the spruced-up, edited version from the issue itself, click here.


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The 11th International Women's Film Festival in Seoul
April 9-16





The Seoul metropolitan area is one of the most populous in the world, and the South Korean capital is also home to one of Asia's most important Women's film festivals. With the tie-in catch phrase 'See the World Through Women's Eyes', the International Women's Film Festival in Seoul strives to bring focus and agency to an erstwhile marginalised movement in Asian and worldwide cinema.

To achieve this aim, the festival is presenting a rich tapestry of selections, events and competitions, starting with an opening night presentation of Jennifer Phang's family-based drama Half-Life. As part of its 'New Currents' section, highlighting up-to-date works from women filmmakers, the festival will be screening films from the world over. Included in the programme is the new film from French director Agnes Varda, called The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d'Agnes), which is described as a 'self-portrait documentary', and Crush and Blush (Misseu Hongdangmoo), from first-time Korean filmmaker Lee Kyoung-mi. Co-produced and co-written by Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Sympathy For Lady Vengeance), the film is a comedy centered on a young Russian language teacher in a Korean high school, and her jealousies and pinings for the rest of the staff.

The festival will also be presenting a variety of films in its programme selections, which include the 'Queer Rainbow', 'Girls on Film' and 'Women's Labour and Poverty' programmes. One of this year's special sections is titled 'On Aging', and seeks to investigate the personal side of growing older. To that end, the festival is screening films such as Oriume, a drama by director Matsui Hisako about family life complicated by Alzheimer's disease, Breezy Day, a documentary about women in their seventies finally learning to read from Jung Ji-Won, and Sharon McGowan's The Oldest Basketball Team In The World, which documents the training regime of Canada's Retreads basketball team (average age: 72), as they prepare for an international competition.




The festival will continue to highlight and support the work of women filmmakers in Korea and throughout the world with its awards and prizes, such as those given in its Asian Short Film and Video Competition and the Women's News Award, which is awarded to a group or individual who demonstrates feminist action through visual media. This year also sees the second edition of the 'Open Cinema' section, where the festival will attempt to expand the definition of what is understood as 'women's cinema', by including work by male directors that addresses issues concerning women, such as Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo's Arranged, and Cheng Hsiao-Tse's Miao Miao.

Alongside these screenings, the festival will also be hosting an International Conference on issues concerning women's cinema today; titled 'Poverty and Women's Labour in the Age of Globalization', they will feature keynote speeches and panel discussions given by directors, academics and critics from Asia and beyond. There will also be events such as the 'Open Stage' series, which includes musical performances, book readings and a 'Girls in Uniform'-themed fancy dress party. For more information on the festival's varied, robust and impressive programme, see http://www.wffis.or.kr/wffis2009/main_eng.php.

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