Guest Film Review The Senior Class Screening At Fantasia International Film Festival

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[Guest Film Review] "The Senior Class" screening at Fantasia International Film Festival

What I like the most about Korean animation, especially regarding the comparison with Japanese anime, is that the films are addressed to adults, for their most part, and not to children or teenagers, as is the case with the majority of anime. In that fashion, "Seoul Station", "King of Pigs", "The Fake" and this particular one (all of which have the same script writer, Yeon Sang-ho, who also directed "Train to Busan") include some deep and harsh social comments, sex and adult themes in general, and a realism that is rarely seen in their Japanese counterparts.

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[Guest Film Review] "Scarecrow Island" screening at Fantasia International Film Festival

Animator Park Hye-mi did quite an impression in 2015, with her debut feature "The Crimson Whale" about an orphaned girl trying to make a living in a dystopic setting. "Scarecrow Island" is her second work, a short this time, which moves along similar lines.

After a massive nuclear blast, almost all of humanity suffered from terminal illnesses. The few that survived managed to escape and create a safe space to live in. The only living creatures that remain on the rest of the land are monstrous non-human life forms. Humanity is now trying to regain these lands, but in order to do so, the army has asked every parent to turn every children older than 5 over, in order to be trained as pilots, promising some vague privileges once the lands are reclaimed. The main protagonist of the film is one such boy turned pilot, who, in one of his flights, spots an undamaged island, which seems to be populated by people. The boy becomes obsessed with the island.

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[Guest Film Review] "A Taxi Driver" screening at Fantasia International Film Festival

The Gwangju Uprising has been a recurring theme in S. Korean cinema, with "A Petal", "National Security", and "May 18" being among the most renowned samples. Jang Hoon, who gave us the masterful "Rough Cut" in 2008, takes a shot at the theme, through a script based on the true story of a taxi driver and his passenger, a German reporter.

The aforementioned driver is Man-seop, a widower living with his 11-year-old daughter, trying to make ends meet, although he rarely succeeds, being in debt, and having very little money. His only friend seems to be his landlord, although he owes him rent money also. In an instance where the two of them are eating in a restaurant filled with taxi drivers, he overhears one saying that he has a drive to Gwangju scheduled, that pays 100.000 Won. Not having any clue about the riots in the area, and the fact that the army has forbid entrance to the city, he highjacks the ride, and ends up carrying Peter, a German reporter, who wants to cover the events.

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[Guest Film Review] "Split" - New York Asian Film Festival

I have to admit, sometimes I forget the appeal a good mainstream movie can have and the entertainment it can offer. "Split" does exactly that, through a Korean version of "Rain Man".

Cheol-jong used to be the best professional bowler in the country, but a tragic car accident destroyed his leg, his career, and even his family. Now, he plays in underground bowling matches that are organized by Hee-jin, an owner of a bowling alley who is in deep debt. The betting in this games is quite heavy, with some outsiders "patrons" participating, and Hee-jin hopes to repay her debt through the abilities of a limping Cheol-jong. However, his partner in the matches is not as good, and the two of them end up losing a lot of money, in a series of events that ends in violence. Their fate, though, changes when Cheol-jong meets Yeong-hoon, an autistic youngster with an incredible ability in bowling, but uncountable quirks. As the three of them start gaining money again, an old foe, Toad appears again threatening everything they have gained, while the tragic past of Yeong-hoon is revealed.

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[Guest Film Review] "Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned" - New York Asian Film Festival

Sci Fi is probably the genre least visited in Korean cinema. Eom Tae-hwa, however, decided to tackle the category, and by using a rather unique perspective, manages to transcend its borders and present a great film.

Thirteen-year-old Soo-rin has moved to a remote island with her stepfather, who is overseeing a large construction there. She befriends Seong-min, a local orphan day, and as the two of them start sharing their dreams, fantasies and a common interest for the occult, their relationship becomes something more than friendship. One day, Soo-rin follows Seong-min and his three friends into a visit towards the construction site, deep in the mountains, in order to witness a big explosion that is about to take place. During their trip, they stumble upon a cave and decide to explore it. In a lake inside the cave, they find an egg, which, according to a local folktale, contains a time-eating goblin. Eventually, an accident occurs, the egg breaks, and the three boys end up in a continuum where time seems to have stopped. In the beginning, they have fun doing whatever they like, but as they realize they cannot escape and the years pass, they start worrying, and sickness and depression takes over. After a number of years, Seong-min manages to return, but he is now a full- fledged young man, while everyone else is of the same age, since just a few days have passed in the real world. As he revisits Soo-rin, he has to face society, her father, and the police, all of which consider him a dangerous pedophile.