Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the First Annual Look East Film Festival. Every year the two-day event will showcase films from a select Asian country. Korean cinema was featured for 2012. This year’s honorees were Pierre Rissient, Ahn Sung Ki, and Lee Byung Hun. On Saturday early afternoon the two renowned Korean actors were the first of their country to have their hands and feet imprinted at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Congratulations! :)
It was an event filled with inspiration-overload, opportunities to meet other movie buffs and filmmakers, and to get up close with actors and directors. I still cannot believe I met Lee Chang Dong, one of my most admired directors. Lee made Oasis, the best love story. Ever. Needless to say: mega fangirl moment!
The festival opened with “Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema.” When an audience watches a movie they see only the actors, not those behind the camera. And when they do know about the director and crew, little do they realize someone else may be standing right next to them: the Cannes “scout” and samurai warrior of select films, Pierre Rissient. Rissient spends his days watching movie after movie, uncovering filmic diamonds in the rough and bringing awareness to them. Thus far he has escalated the careers of Im Kwon Taek, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Quentin Tarantino, and many others.
Though Rissient claims he never said it, he is known for this famous quote: “It is not enough to love a film. One must love it for the right reasons!” Whether or not he said it, it’s a standing-ovation-worthy maxim.
Up next was “A Bittersweet Life” directed by Kim Ji Woon. I was particularly fond of the scene where main character Kim Sun Woo fights his reflection in the glass. It reminded me of how I give myself high-fives in the mirror. Lesson to be learned: life is a battle with yourself. You will be pushed and pulled by people and circumstances. Though you may feel victim to current conditions, you are the biggest contributor and agent of change in your life. You are the creator of your universe. You are your own best friend and enemy.
During the Q&A session, actor Lee Byung Hun humbly responded to a question about his worldwide-fame with a humorous story. Lee was at coffee shop in New York. A group of females kept looking at him and smiled. Lee was thinking, “Nice. I’m being recognized outside of Korea.” The females later came up to him and said, “We enjoyed ‘Hangover’ very much.”
Oh ladies, the actor in “Hangover” is Ken Jeong, not Lee Byung Hun!
Above left: At the Q&A session, actor Lee Byung Hun looked down at the ground most of the time due to constant flash photography. Above right: Director Kim Ji Woon in deep thought or deep boredom?
On Sunday’s screening, director Lee Chang Dong serenaded the audience with his latest masterpiece “Poetry.” How do I describe the story without giving too much away? The main character Mija, a 66-year-old grandmother, finds herself in a storm–figuratively speaking. She is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and discovers that her grandson, whom she is guardian to, and his friends are responsible for the suicide of a former schoolmate. Rather than feeding the chaos Mija remains calm and observant, living her life in the eye of a storm.
Mija made me think of my mother. Their mannerisms and the random, odd things they say… A couple Thanksgivings ago, a family friend invited my mother and I to dinner. As our families were enjoying turkey and yams, my mother announced at the dining table: “Today my daughter and I went to Victoria’s Secret. She was looking for a bra.” Huh?! Why are we talking about me and bras? And out of all the places, why at a Thanksgiving dinner table? Needless to say, I was confused as to why she made such a statement. Now everyone can imagine me trying on different bras as they eat the rest of their meal. I felt naked. Thanks, Mom!
Though I wanted to attend the rest of the movie screenings and Q&A sessions, there is this thing called life that needed attending to. And life is the most important movie of all. The tape starts rolling when you wake up in the morning. Your every action builds a story. One event leads to another. Need an intermission? Go to sleep. You’re the director, producer, and actor of your life. Have fun with it. What are you waiting for? Turn off your technological gadgets and make your screenplay a reality! :)
What’s your favorite Korean film? And why? Let me know in the comment section below. Who knows, the next movie I watch may be the one you recommended. Thank you in advance!
Written by Professor Oh