Korea on Screen: Honolulu Museum of Art Film Series Continues Through September
The Korean Cinema series reflects a changing country and film industry.
Editor’s Note: Through our partnership with the Honolulu Museum of Art, HONOLULU Magazine publishes a monthly blog written by Lesa Griffith, the museum’s communications director and a talented Hawai‘i writer on arts, culture and food.
Our Love Story is a tender romance that also pushes social boundaries.
The Honolulu Museum of Art presents annual cultural film festivals, and with each year, attendees can see a country’s cinematic language evolve. For example the Bollywood Film Festival includes fewer musical spectaculars and more serious high-production dramas. This year’s Korean Cinema series, screening now through Sept. 23, is chock full of hits that address serious topics such as political corruption, the 1980s Gwangju uprising, a lesbian awakening and North Korean relations. It even includes Gook—the acclaimed Korean-American production that looks at racism in Los Angeles.
It’s been two decades since Hallyu—the Korean Wave—washed over the world, and there is so much more to it than K-dramas now. Next up in the series, on Sept. 14 and 17, is the indie production Our Love Story, about a female art graduate student who falls in love for the first time—with a female bartender. In a socially conservative country where homosexuality is still criminalized, the film is a milestone for Korean cinema.
Star-studded The Battleship Island is an epic World War II escape film.
The series goes from intimate indie to epic blockbuster with The Battleship Island, featuring an all-star cast that includes Hwang Jung Min (Ode to My Father, The Himalayas) and Song Joong Ki (Descendants of the Sun). It’s takes place on coal-rich Hashima Island (which was also the creepy, crumbling lair of Javier Bardem in Skyfall), where the Japanese put hundreds of Koreans into forced labor. It’s a World War II great-escape thriller.
Justin Chon’s Gook, an exploration of race relations between Korean Americans and African Americans, took a top prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
And for the first time the Korean Cinema series includes an American production—Justin Chon’s Gook, which won the NEXT Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Focusing on two Korean-American brothers in Los Angeles in 1992, the film explores race relations that are just as complex and heated 25 years later.
Lesa Griffith is director of communications at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Born in Honolulu, one of her early seminal art experiences was at the Honolulu Museum of Art, when on a field trip her high school art history teacher pointed out that the ermine cape in Whistler’s Portrait of Lady Meux was not just a cape—it was visual signage leading viewers’ eyes through the painting.