KOFFIA @ Palace Electric Cinemas

Ariel Larkey 24 September 2018

Following Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, the 9th annual Korean Film Festival in Australia rounds out its itinerary with a quick stop in the nation’s capital this weekend. Sydney enjoyed the full complement of a 22-strong line-up of films, with Melbourne receiving 16 of the inclusions. Brisbane had a peek at four of the features. Thanks to Palace Electric Cinemas, Canberra will enjoy a grab-bag of five releases from this year’s programming.

With more and more local eateries tapping into Korean cuisine, interest in the culture continues to grow. With a solid turnout at KOFFIA 2018, Canberra can hopefully look forward to enjoying even more exposure to Korean cinema as the festival nears its tenth anniversary.

Spearheaded by creatives such as Hong-jin Na, Sang-ho Yeon and Park-chan Wook among others, Korea is a champion of cutting-edge cinema, continuously churning out challenging and interesting modern material.

With each entry quite distinct from the next, the five-film KOFFIA showcase provides a snapshot of a diverse and rich Korea, and its productive cinema industry.

Opening the three-day festival is comedy-drama I Can Speak (2017). Min-jae, a young and eager-to-please civil servant keen to make an impression in his new job, must acclimatise to Ok-boon, an elderly co-worker nicknamed the ‘goblin granny’ due to her endless workplace complaints. However, when Ok-boon discovers Min-jae is highly proficient in English, she seeks his help to reconnect with her long-lost brother in America. An unlikely friendship develops as long-held secrets begin to surface. Screening 7 pm, Friday.

Based on a true story, A Taxi Driver (2017) is part road-movie, part historical drama, serving as a vehicle to explore fairly recent and critical events in South Korean history. May, 1980; Man-seob is a bereaved Seoul taxi driver. Struggling to pay the bills, he decides to take a fateful fare from a foreigner who will pay good money for a ride down to Gwangju and back before curfew. Unbeknownst to Man-seob, his passenger is a German journalist looking to cover events in a city enduring a military government siege. As citizens led by students rise up against the reigning autocracy, a taxi driver will drive right into the heart of the situation. Screening 4 pm, Saturday.

A veritable South Korean box-office smash, Believer (2018) is the official remake of the Johnnie To Chinese-Hong Kong action-thriller Drug War (2012). This gritty crime fable pairs narcotics detective Won-ho with Rak, a low-level operative turned informer from the biggest drug cartel in Asia. Consumed by his quest to bring down the faceless Mr. Lee, Won-ho enters into the unorthodox partnership in one last attempt to catch the spectral head of the ruthless organisation. It could make or break his investigation but “to catch a devil, he must trust a sinner”. Screening 7 pm, Saturday.

Special Australian-Premiere inclusion at KOFFIA this year is the family drama Stand By Me (2018). Orphaned from a deceased father, and abandoned by a treacherous mother, 7-year-old Deok-gu lives with his little sister Deok-hee and their grandfather, who is forever struggling to make ends meet but doing his very best to raise his young charges. As he begins to contend with his own mortality he ponders how best to prepare the children for their own futures and decides to leave them something special. An emotional, tender tale about love and dedication, this is the directorial debut for Soo-in Bang. Screening 4 pm, Sunday.

The Canberra leg of the Korean Film Festival in Australia closes with Midnight Runners (2017). From first-time writer/second-time director Joo-hwan Kim, this Korean-style, buddy-cop, crime-caper should bring the festival to an entertaining end as two best mates face a race against time to save the day. Students at the Korean National Police University by day and crime-fighting duo by night, Ki-joon and Hee-yeol witness an abduction of a young woman while out on the town. With the police otherwise preoccupied by a high-profile kidnapping, it falls to the pair to investigate the abduction, relying on their own devices to solve the case in KOFFIA 2018’s comedic conclusion. Screening 7 pm, Sunday.

For more information on the festival, visit KOFFIA.

Purchase tickets at the Palace Electric Cinemas box office or online.

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