Fans of Korean cinema - as well as those just starting to scratch the surface of all that South Korea has to offer - will have a lot to choose from at this weekend's Look East Film Festival. A recognition of Korea's rising film industry, the festival will feature Korean films past and present over the span of two days at the Grauman's Chinese Theater.
Look East kicks off Saturday with dual honors for actors Lee Byung Hun and Ahn Sung Ki, who will become the first Korean actors to be added to both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the collection of hand and footprints at Grauman's. The festival will feature a Q&A with Ahn after a screening of his film "Unbowed," as well as a Q&A with Lee after a screening of "A Bittersweet Life."
First day festivities include the U.S. premiere of "Hometown in Heart," a 1949 classic from director Yong-gyu, which was one of the first films to be released in Korean after World War II, as well as a Q&A with Pierre Rissient, an early promoter of Korean cinema at the Cannes Film Festival.
Fans of Korean horror films will get two chances to see actor Son Kang-ho, first in the "The Host" (which is South Korea's highest grossing film ever) and "Thirst". "The Host" will be shown in 3D on Saturday and "Thirst" will be followed by a Q&A with director Park Chan Wook on Sunday.
Directed by Park - the man behind the acclaimed Vengeance Trilogy - "Thirst" is a tragic love story, with the added twists of Catholic guilt and vampirism. Sang-hyun (Son) is a devoted priest who becomes the only survivor of a medical experiment aimed at curing a contagious disease. What many consider a miracle, though, soon turns out to be a curse. Blood from a vampire is transfused into San-hyun, and suddenly he finds himself juggling a darkly comic life as a devoted priest with an unquenchable thirst for blood.
Also screening at the festival is the 2010 Cannes winner for Best Screenplay, Lee Chang-Dong's "Poetry."
The film is about a retired grandmother, Yang Mija (played with quiet resolve by Yoon Jeong-hee), who takes care of her rude and uncaring grandson. Yang joins a poetry writing class after she is told by her doctor that she is in the early stages of Alzheimer's. As Yang struggles to become inspired, news of her grandson's possible involvement with a drowned school girl makes her quest to describe something beautiful through poetry difficult.The film will be followed by a Q&A with director Lee Chang Dong on Sunday.
It's difficult to come up with a summary of an entire country's cinema from just one weekend festival, but the ten films being featured are a great introduction to the many strong actors and directors coming out of Korea now.
June 23-24, 10am- 12am
Grauman's Chines Theater
LEF Pass: $100 per person
$10 each film