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Festival provides glimpse of a 'de-mystified' Korea

February 3, 2006

Photo of director Grace Lee (right) standing next to Grace Lee Boggs, one of the women she met while filming "The Grace Lee Project"SFSU students, faculty and alumni have organized a film festival that "gives voice to the Korean American experience," scheduled for Feb. 7 - 12 at SFSU and other city locations. The fourth San Francisco Korean American Film Festival -- directed by alum David Park (B.A., '05), with programming directed by Chul Heo, assistant professor of broadcast and electronic communication arts -- will showcase 36 groundbreaking films and videos that illuminate different perspectives of the two Koreas -- North and South.

The festival is put on by Korea Studies in Media Arts (KIMA), a nonprofit comprised of 70 students and alumni from SFSU and other Bay Area colleges, faculty members, and industry professionals.

"Beyond Borders: De-mystifying the Korean Image through the Media Arts" will include stories of identity, heritage, family, history, loss and racism. The festival is the only event in the country to celebrate Korean American media arts, according to Park.

"We hope to portray Koreans as human beings, with an identity and a heritage," Park said. "We want to clear up the misrepresentation in the media of North Korea as being associated only with nuclear reactors and always having ideological differences with South Korea. There is more to North Korea than what the mass media tell you."

The festival will include feature films, short narrative films, documentaries and contemporary Korean films. The roster includes comedy, family drama, horror, police drama and love stories.

Myung-Se Lee's acclaimed martial arts film "Duelist," in its San Francisco premiere, will open the festival at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco. Closing night will feature Je-gyu Kang’s award-winning war film, "TaeGukGi: The Brotherhood of War," also at the Presidio.

The late 1970s film "The Flower Girl," one of North Korea's most treasured films, will screen at the festival, as will films and videos by South Korean, Korean American and British filmmakers. Also showing is "Shiri," Je-Gyu Kang's Korean new-wave film that made Yunjin Kim a South Korean film star before landing her role as Sun on the hit television drama "Lost."

From Feb. 9 to 12, directors, producers, university professors and journalists will participate in open-forum discussions about the democratization of Korea, globalization and contemporary Korean cinema, the film industry, and how the U.S. media portray Korean culture. Forums will be at SF State, Stanford University and the Pickwick Hotel in San Francisco.

"Some of these films are comical, some are political, and others are humorous and cinematic, in a fantasy type of way. This is a rare chance for audiences to understand Koreans and Korea in a very different way," said Heo, who was born and raised in South Korea.

In her 2005 documentary, "The Grace Lee Project," Korean American director Grace Lee tells a humorous tale of her search for other women who share her name, which she considers the "quintessential Asian girl name." Her journey unveils a diverse group of women -- not all Asian -- who encouraged Lee to look beyond stereotypes.

"This is not a social-issue film, but more of a personal journey or meditation, in a humorous way," Lee said. "Think of it as a new way to look at an identity crisis."

Korean directors, actresses and producers will participate in question and answer sessions after screenings throughout the festival.

Previous festivals attracted more than 3,000 attendees.

All festival screenings and forums are open to the public. For a full schedule, ticket prices, venue locations and more information, visit KIMA's Web site or call the box-office coordinator at (415) 286-8447.

-- Student Writer Gary Moskowitz with Matt Itelson
Photos: Courtesy of Grace Lee


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Last modified February 3, 2006 by University Communications