The San Sebastian Festival and the Filmoteca España organize, in collaboration with the Filmoteca Vasca and the San Telmo Museum, a retrospective on the golden age of South Korean cinema, to be accompanied by a monographic book published by the Festival and the Filmoteca Española on the more than twenty titles dating from the 50s and 60s making up the season.
Although South Korean cinema is now a constant at international festivals and a reference in contemporary cinema, the history of this film industry remains rather unknown to the western public and our knowledge of it is usually limited to titles produced from the 90s onwards.
This season focuses on the so-called “golden age” of South Korean cinema when, despite the country’s precarious economic situation following the war with Korea and Park Chung-hee’s control of the military dictatorship, a film industry was developed capable of meeting the demand for popular films to satisfy the general public and of consolidating the careers of directors with different styles and interests: some showed the image of a developing modern society, while others denounced the harsh living conditions of the time.
The selection includes a number of titles produced in the 50s and 60s and endeavors to highlight a group of filmmakers who are perhaps the most outstanding representatives of that South Korean classic cinema while sketching a panorama of the most common genres of the period, some inspired in American cinema and transplanted into local reality, while others were truly homespun.
Among the films making up the season are some of the most iconic in their day: The Housemaid (1960) by Kim Ki-young, widely accepted as one of the masterpieces in the history of South Korean cinema; harsh and realistic chronicles of life in post-war South Korea such as Flower in Hell (1958) and Aimless Bullet (1960); the rom-com A Female Boss (1959); the gentle family film classic Romance Papa (1960); the dramas The Daughters of Kim’s Pharmacy (1960) and Homebound (1967) and the winner of the Jury Prize at the Berlin Festival, The Coachman (1961), the first South Korean film to land an award at an international film festival.
Film noir will also be present with Black Hair (1964), horror and thriller movies with The Devil’s Stairway (1964) and A Bloodthirsty Killer (1965) and war in the film portraying the trauma of the country’s separation, North and South (1965). Farewell to the Duman River (1962), for its part, is an example of the typical local Manchurian western genre, adventure movies set in Manchuria and inspired by their American counterparts. Alongside titles more difficult to classify such as the surrealist fantasy The Empty Dream (1965) or the drama of modernist inspiration, Mist (1967), the retrospective also recovers the work of the first two women directors in the history of South Korean cinema, Park Nam-ok (The Widow, 1955) and Hong Eun-won (A Woman Judge, 1962), as well as the country’s first animated feature film, A Story of Hong Gil-dong (1967).
Following its screening at the San Sebastian Festival, the retrospective will travel to the Filmoteca Española’s Doré Cinema, where it will run in October and November.
PROVISIONAL LIST OF FILMS
- MIMANG-IN / THE WIDOW, Park Nam-ok (1955)
- JAYUBU-IN / MADAME FREEDOM, Han Hyung-mo (1956)
- JIOKHWA / FLOWER IN HELL,Shin Sang-ok (1958)
- YEOSAJANG / A FEMALE BOSS, Han Hyung-mo (1959)
- OBALTAN / AIMLESS BULLET, Yu Hyun-mok (1960)
- HANYEO / THE HOUSEMAID, Kim Ki-young (1960)
- ROMANCE PAPA, Shin Sang-ok (1960)
- MABU / THE COACHMAN, Kang Dae-jin (1961)
- YEONSANGUN / PRINCE YEONSAN, Shin Sang-ok (1961)
- DUMANGANG-A JAL ITGEORA / FAREWELL TO THE DUMAN RIVER,Im Kwon-taek (1962)
- YEOPANSA / A WOMAN JUDGE, Hong Eun-won (1962)
- KIM YAGGUG-UI TTALDEUL / THE DAUGHTERS OF KIM’S PHARMACY,Yu Hyun-mok (1963)
- DORAOJI ANNEUN HAEBYONG / THE MARINES WHO NEVER RETURNED, Lee Man-hee (1963)
- HYEOLMAEK / BLOODLINE, Kim Soo-yong (1963)
- GEOM-EUNMEOLI / BLACK HAIR, Lee Man-hee (1964)
- MA-UI GYEDAN / THE DEVIL’S STAIRWAY, Lee Man-hee (1964)
- MAN-BAL-UI CHEONG CHUN / THE BAREFOOTED YOUNG, Kim Kee-duk (1964)
- CHUNMONG / THE EMPTY DREAM, Yu Hyun-mok (1965)
- SAL-INMA / A BLOODTHIRSTY KILLER, Lee Yong-min (1965)
- NAMGWABUG / NORTH AND SOUTH, Kim Kee-duk (1965)
- GAETMA-EUL / THE SEASHORE VILLAGE, Kim Soo-yong (1965)
- ANGAE / MIST,Kim Soo-yong (1967)
- GWI-RO / HOMEBOUND, Lee Man-hee (1967)
- HONG GIL-DONG / A STORY OF HONG GIL-DONG,Shin Dong-hun (1967)