South Korean Cinema: Historical Background
HISTORY/NATION
ru
ENG
30/04/2022
by Ksenia Slasten

Recently, the Russian film society has received tragic news: the main show of Russian cinema, the Kinotavr festival, was rescheduled "for a period when we survive the current political events and can return to the cinema, including to understand what happened to the country and to all of us," as follows from the statement of the director of the festival, producer Alexander Rodnyansky. There is something to be upset about: "Kinotavr" was a social event that fed glossy magazines, a market that replenished the repertoires of cinemas, and, of course, a celebration of Russian cinema. Almost all noteworthy films produced in Russia were presented in Sochi.


Kinotavr arose as a way to resurrect domestic film distribution, which was in an extremely deplorable state at the end of the twentieth century. The idea of the show belonged to the producer Mark Rudinshtein. Soviet actor Oleg Yankovsky was appointed as its president. The first festival was held in 1990 in Podolsk, then it was decided to move it to the Black Sea coast in the resort town of Sochi. The first years of the festival had a reputation as a location where drinking parties took place, and there also were some films that no one needed; the public was more drawn to gossip about who drank vodka with whom and then got into a fight. Meanwhile, worthy films were shown there. For example, Ryazanov's Promised Heaven (1991), Rogozhkin's Peculiarities of the National Hunt (1995), Balabanov's famous dilogy Brother (1997), Govorukhin's The Rifleman of the Voroshilov Regiment (1999), and many, many more good works, which were only talked about when they have already found people's love, and often it was not even mentioned that they were at Kinotavr.
Such increasing popularity is not a surprise. South Korean cinema draws Western viewers' and critics' attention with its high-quality visuals, a wide range of topics and the directness of a narrative. In these cases, the film is a true depiction of reality in its both beautiful and ugly aspects. Hollywood cinema lacks it: its usual blockbusters show the world shining and polished, from quite a narrow point of view. It is different for independent Western cinema, but that kind of films doesn't usually get enough recognition. Korean cinema isn't limited by any restrictions. It portrays life in its worst and represents violence as it is. It might be chilling and poetic like Burning (2018), surreal and silent like A Quiet Dream (2016), or absurdist and contradictory like Maggie (2018).

Tony Rayns, a film critic and Asian films' commentator, thinks the specifics of Korean cinema may lie in the history of the country: "I suspect that the kind of macho action violence that you get in a lot of modern Korean films is partly rooted in this history of brutality." It sounds reasonable, considering how violent the 20th century was for Korea.
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Kinotavr arose as a way to resurrect domestic film distribution, which was in an extremely deplorable state at the end of the twentieth century. The idea of the show belonged to the producer Mark Rudinshtein.
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