Korean cinema has really been a hotspot this past decade, what with Kim Ki-Duk (Time, 3-Iron, Spring Summer...), Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Mother, Memories of Murder), Park Chan-wook (Thirst, Oldboy... the upcoming Stoker) and Lee Chang-dong (Poetry, Oasis, Peppermint Candy) winning over critics and Asian film fans quite regularly. South Korea's steady stream of great performances by actresses isn't hurting their rep either... especially not with The Film Experience ;) Just the other day I was skimming over The Housemaid again and, gah, actressy heaven. All four female players were totally working those roles.
So we're curious as to what they'll submit this year. The Korean Film Commission has narrowed it down to six titles so one of these will be your Oscar contender:
- Poonsan (Juhn Jai-hong) is a romantic drama about a South Korean messenger and his pick-up from North Korea that he's to smuggle across the border.
- The Yellow Sea (Na Hong-Jin) is about a gambling addict taxi driver who takes an assassination job to pay off his debts. Trouble follows, naturally.
- The Front Line (Jang Hoon) The director used to be an assistant director to the great Kim Ki-Duk. Apparently there is now friction between the two of them in regards to the goings on of the Korean film industry. This is a big budgeted war drama taking place in 1951.
- Sunny (Kang Hyeong-cheol), is the year's biggest hit in Korea. And -- actress alert! -- it's about a group of girlfriends from school who reunite 25 years later to reminisce.
- The Day He Arrives (Hong Sang-soo) is a black and white picture about a man wandering around Seoul, running into friends and ex girlfriends and the like. It played at Cannes.
- Hanji (or Scooping Up the Moonlight) (Im Kwon-taek) a government employee is assigned to revive the Hanji paper industry and he falls in love with it. Kwon-taek has been submitted once before with Chunhyang (2000)
It's tough to say what the Film Council will go for as there are a wide variety of factors in play from homefield success, through international auteur reps, to which films might appeal to AMPAS's sensibility. But the sad truth is that, whatever they choose, it's an uphill battle. Oscar has yet to nominate a Korean film... despite recent submissions as hugely acclaimed and well loved as Oasis (2002), Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (2003), Secret Sunshine (2007) and Mother (2009).
Have you caught up with recent Korean successes like Mother, Poetry (my review), The Host or The Housemaid?