Two weeks ago, RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS was screened at the Green Film Festival in Seoul... which was in Seoul. Based on its official website, the Green Film Festival in Seoul (GFFIS) "is the film festival to seek the co-existence between humans and the environment through cinema. Green matters have become one of our common issues, but we still want to meet more people and share the green messages together. We are still living in the age of reckless development, environmental destruction, climate change and poverty. The GFFIS dreams of the co-existence between humans and nature, the alternatives for the future, and the ways to put ideas into action through films. Until the day all these dreams come into reality, we will be here with you and do our works.".
The festival screenings were held in venues like the Cinecube, INDIESPACE, Seoul Museum of History, and Baseurak Hall of Seoul Citizens Hall. I really liked the Cinecube, which is a nice arthouse cinema that was showing the Oscar-nominated FINDING VIVIAN MAIER when the festival was happening. In front of the Cinecube is the world's largest Hammering Man, very fitting, very Old Boy-ish.
Like most film festivals I had the pleasure of attending in South Korea, GFFIS happened to be very well-organized and efficient, the audiences were very passionate of cinema and were able to ask me really challenging, incisive questions.
But before my own screening, I was very happy to have finally catch the wonderful THE TALE OF IYA 祖谷物語 －おくのひと－ by Tetsuichiro Tsuta, a 3-hour epic that was novelistic in scope and breadth, following the lives of a young woman and her grandfather, along with the people of a dying village in Iya Valley. How tradition and the mysticism of the place are gradually eroded by attempts of modernization. While many reviews I have read about the film were very divisive about the final hour of the film, where everything was shifted to modern Tokyo, I thought those parts were necessary just so we ourselves as audiences could understand the nostalgia for the simple life in the village as depicted in the first two hours of the film. It's a fine film, I've been curious about it for a long time since its premiere at the 2013 Tokyo Film Fest (a year before Exploding Durians!)
During the Q and A, the director spoke about his own love for Studio Ghibli films (the stunningly beautiful Iya Valley does look like something from a Hayao Miyazaki film! Especially as the film was able to capture it in its cycle of seasons), he was also influenced by a film that popped up in my mind repeatedly as I watching the film, Kaneto Shindo's THE NAKED ISLAND (1960), a film entirely devoid of dialogue, showing only the hardship faced by a family (the only inhabitants of the titular island) as they are working on their crops. Powerful stuff, I caught it shortly after Kaneto Shindo's death in 2012 while I was in Tokyo. The film was like a waking dream. Tale of Iya encapsulated this feeling as well.
The next morning, I rushed off to catch an experimental essay film called THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA by Jessica Oreck, as I was curious of its synopsis.
In the vein of Chris Marker's SANS SOLEIL and a number of his other essay film works (a format I rather liked and had dabbled on before), THE VANQUISHING OF THE WITCH BABA YAGA is a dense work which examined the contemporary Eastern Europe, and the tradition, fairy tales and others that still linger. It is interspersed with an animated retelling of the Baba Yaga fairy tale, and gradually becomes fragments of personal memories.
My screening and Q and A session was held on May 11th, there was also another one on May 14th.
This was my first proper visit in Seoul since 2009 (for the post-production of WOMAN ON FIRE LOOKS FOR WATER, a film I was producing, I was there for two weeks, and wrote about my adventures here, here, here, here and here.)
Funny that 5 years ago, I also remarked upon the Hammering Man statue that I passed by.
Alas, there were less photos this time.