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How I made the most out of my first-ever online Korean Film Festival

  • By Claire A.

Second time’s a charm! Now on its 2nd consecutive time going digital, the KCC film festival came back for this year 2021 with a Full House of exciting and fresh, new K-films to fill our hunger for new K-content! Through this event, they have paved the way for K-cineastes to still enjoy quality Korean films, all in the convenience of their own home. Although nothing can beat the experience of having the traditional movie theater experience, I think there are still perks to this kind of set-up. As a lot of Filipinos are now connected online more than ever during this outbreak, the coverage of the film festival has become more widespread and accessible than ever. Also, creating opportunities to have a special bonding time with your family through our mutual love for movies, especially K-movies. All you’ll ever need is a laptop, a stable wifi connection, maybe some popcorn and drinks and you’re all set! And the best part? I was able to watch all of these films for FREE! No hidden charges, I swear!

Participating in an event like this was a whole new experience for me. Within a span of 3 weeks, 7 Korean films on the agenda, I upped my A-Game to accomplish the task of watching all these films. I ultimately decided to watch all the films solo-lo-lo-lo-lo-lo (in the tune of Jennie’s Solo song), in my bed along with my laptop & a pair of headphones, to freely enjoy each film however I want to and to give it my undivided attention. The first week of the film festival opened with a BANG, promising action and adrenaline rush, starting with the movie EXTREME JOB which became a huge box office hit in Korea last 2019! As a lover of detective movie set-ups, this film left me dumbfounded with their hilarious stunts and how the story unfolded -- from being undercover cops to suddenly being big-time small business owners, selling chicken. I love how it had a kick of the good old classic Korean comedy. It even got me craving to eat some korean chicken every time they were showing the chicken cooking scene.

Next in the list is EXIT — a story of a fateful encounter between the two leads Jo Jung Seok (Oh My Ghost, Hospital Playlist) and idol-turned-actress Im Yoon-ah (Girls Generation) and how they were able to utilize their skills and tactics in the art of rock climbing and emergency know-hows when a sudden toxic gas explosion invaded the city. The pacing and the scenes felt just right, with no dull moment. I live for the plot twists after plot twists and the stunts had me on the edge of my seat! Due to my incessant screaming of folly, my mom had to come to my room to know what the fuss was about. Behind all the action and comedy stints of the movie, I really appreciated the depth of the characters, especially Jo Jung Seok’s. His struggle with feeling like a failure and things not going according to plan was like a #relate moment. It almost sorta sounds like what the pandemic has done to a lot of us. Yet, it still felt comforting for me, to relate to a character that much.

The fun didn’t stop for week two as MISS AND MRS. COP and MY ANNOYING BROTHER premiered. I know we’re all getting used to the “male-supremacy-buddy-cop” films but seeing MISS AND MRS. COP was a breath of fresh air. Starring the ever so lovely Lee Sung Kyung (Weightlifting Fairy, Dr. Romantic 2) and Ra Mi Ran (from Reply 1988), teaming up to fight against hate crimes on teenage girls and fearlessly standing up for women's rights is truly sensational and empowering for every woman. The chemistry of the cast is what also made this film all the more captivating for me.

For the 2nd film MY ANNOYING BROTHER; if you seem to think that the older brother looks oddly familiar then you’re not wrong! Another film from Jo Jung Seok, with the addition of the charismatic Do Kyung Soo, which a lot of K-stans know as EXO’s DO, and the enchanting Park Shin Hye. I’m not gonna dive further into the deets of this film, you need to watch it for yourself, but a warning: there will be waterworks.

Going into the final week of the KFF, I tried to prepare my heart for the film line-up but in the end, I became an emotional wreck. First on the list was KIM JI YOUNG, BORN IN 1982 which starred frequent collaborators, Jung Yu Mi and Gong Yoo. Far from the intensity of when they starred in Train to Busan, the story is as ordinary as it gets, showing the life of an ordinary South Korean family and yet, it ignited something within me about the struggles of women in society; it was truly an eye-opener.

For the second film, KEYS TO THE HEART is a heartwarming story about a family that got reunited again. It also featured recent Oscar Winner veteran actress Youn Yuh-Jung in her earlier works and I just simply adore the chemistry of the three main casts. I’ve seen reviews calling the story a bit common but still, seeing them together felt like a ‘real’ family and the performances by the cast was so endearing. I especially loved that line, “Even strangers become a family, when they eat and live together.” Lastly, to cross off the checklist of this film fest is SOUL-MATE, which featured the chemistry between Ma Dong Seok and Kim Young Kwang in this ghost-comedy-heartwrenching film. I love how sentimental the story is and how I felt at ease when I was watching the entirety of the film.

Korean Cultural Center definitely curated the best of the best films for this year. It made me look forward to next year’s film festival line-up. *Fingers crossed* that we get to see the films in person through the big screen next year. I also appreciated that they still had activities where people can participate through surveys & essays, giving out prizes for participants each week. With eagerness, I even tried answering the surveys though sadly, I wasn’t chosen in the end. Nevertheless, it’s nice to read about other K-fans POVs about the films and to see their creative essays. It sort of became a talk segment where people got to ‘engage’ in a way with one another -- having the feel of what most film festivals do. I really learned a lot of things over the course of three weeks through these 7 films. Overall, the selection of movies had the right amount of formula for action, comedy, drama and it's impossible not to be able to pick up moral lessons along the way. Despite the uncertainty brought upon by the pandemic, ‘some things in life can’t be ignored’ (quote from the movie SOUL-MATE). It is up to us on how we can make the most out of things in this adversity, and embrace the inevitable “new normal” with an open mind. Truly, no pandemic can stop Filipino K-fans from satisfying their hunger for korean goodness content and making their K-life better!