Leesong Hee-il at BFI Lesbian & Gay Film Fest

The British Film Institute‘s upcoming Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in London sees three of Korean film director Leesong Hee-il’s films being screened. This will be the BFI’s 27th Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and runs from the 14th March to 24th March 2013. The three Leesong Hee-il films that will be shown are White Night (2012), Going South (2012) and Suddenly, Last Summer (2012).

Leesong Hee-il at BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Festival

Leesong Hee-il’s first full length feature film was No Regret (2006), and with this film he was invited to the 57th Berlin International Film Festival. This debut feature gained him notoriety as No Regret was seen as “the first commercially released South Korean film to feature frontal adult male nudity, and is also regarded as the first ‘real’ Korean gay feature” (source). Director Leesong even said himself that when No Regret was released “it was a huge issue because it was the first feature film made by a gay director who had come out of the closet, and that in itself was quite an issue at the time” (source). This film also won him the ‘Best Independent Director of the Year’ Award at the Director’s CUT Awards in 2006 and from here, his career has flourished.

His films and shorts mainly tackle matters of the heart with gay men as protagonists. He’s also not afraid to tackle the issues facing gay people in Korea, personally and professionally, and his skills at being able to address and deliver sensitive stories that will engage all audiences have earnt him a great reputation.

The three films being of Director Leesong shown at the BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Fest form a trilogy. These films are fairly new releases, all opening in 2012, and the BFI’s addition of them into the Lesbian and Gay Film Fest will mean that audiences in London will be able to experience Director Leesong’s great storytelling.

Take a look at the trailers and read the synopses below to get an idea of the films. All synopses taken from KOBIZ and credit goes to Lee Eun-sun for writing them.

White Night (백야)

Image credit to Han Cinema

Image credit to Han Cinema

Won-gyu, a steward at a German airline meets a stranger named Tae-jun during his one night in Seoul. Their guards raised at first, they gradually begin to reveal their inner thoughts to one another. Having gotten the story from real incidents of sudden assaults made by groups of homophobes, White Night shows the tragic reality of the isolated sexual minorities and their hidden love. Meeting for a ‘sex date’, Won-gyu and Tae-jun are meant to be separated. To Tae-jun’s question “We were real right?” the film answers back with the cold view of Seoul’s dark night.

Check out the KCM review of White Night here.

Going South (남쪽으로 간다)

Ki-tae hands Joon-young coffee mixed with a sleeping pill. He heads south with Joon-young sleeps. When Joon-young wakes up the secret that they have kept slowly reveals itself.

Going South is a story about a man who kidnaps his former senior soldier who broke off contact after being discharged. It also views discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals in a critical view. The main characters Joon-young and Ki-tae met in the military but have broken up. Joon-young who was discharged earlier, adjusts to society by dating a girl and preparing for a job, but Ki-tae still has Joon-young on his mind. Eventually he gives Joon-young coffee with sleeping pills mixed in, and heads somewhere south with Joon-young sleeping next to him.

Going South is the most passionate among Leesong’s 3-part queer series. He does not decorate the gay love with beautiful scenes. In a car that vibrates, in the woods where the wind shakes the trees, and in the mud before a dark tunnel, movement never lets the tension drop. Towards the end, the movie shows how powerful and desperate the love between men can be in a realistic way. The ending. where Joon-young exits the tunnel leaving behind a drunk Ki-tae dancing, is impressive. Combined with mysterious music, the scene leaves a strong impression.

Suddenly, Last Summer (지난여름, 갑자기)

Sang-woo blindly draws near and Kyung-hoon, his teacher, keeps pushing him away. Can Kyung-hoon tolerate Sang-woo’s seduction, which persistently touches his hidden desire?

Suddenly, Last Summer, a story about a boy who rushes recklessly and a teacher who is vacillated by it, got a good review from Indie Forum this year. “I am your teacher” (Kyung-hoon), “You kept staring at me” (Sang-woo) as shown from these lines, Kyung-hoon is trying hard to push him away but Sang-woo persistently draws near. The story is constructed through this cat-and-mouse game.

Suddenly, Last Summer is a film about the cold social convention towards sexual minorities. Kyung-hoon tries to open his heart when on a cruise ship but closes it when it reaches the shore. The long distance that never seems to diminish, gets closer by the end of the movie. With a lovely ending that breaks from convention, Suddenly, Last Summer is the most commercial film from Leesong Hee-il’s 3-part queer series. The fantastic view that Kyung-hoon looks upon on the cruise ship takes them to a beautiful place.

All three of these films promise to be a great watch, tackling interesting subjects and taking the viewer on a emotionally charged ride. If you’re interested in coming to view these films, you can order tickets through the BFI website. As of now, two screenings have been sold out, but there are still places available for other showings! Going South and Suddenly, Last Summer are being shown as a double screening, but as they’re only 45 mins and 37 mins respectively, together they’re the normal length of one film. 

Leesong Hee-il Films BFI Lesbian and Gay Film Fest

So why not come on down to BFI at Soutbank, London and indulge in some great Korean cinema over the next two weekends!

Sources: English KBS, Asian Wiki, KOBIZ, Hanguk Yeonghwa

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