LKFF: Vibrant Landscapes

The London Korean Film Festival returns this week with a diverse and delicious-sounding selection of cinematic offerings. Now in its 12th edition, the festival promises premieres, retrospectives, masterclasses and guest Q&As in a series of venues across the capital, including the Picturehouse Central, Korean Cultural Centre and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. From 9 November onwards, the festival goes on tour, to Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Nottingham and Belfast. It’s already been an impressive year for South Korean film, with Bong Joon-ho’s eco-creature feature Okja and Byung-gil Jung’s female assassin tale The Villainess both premiering in Cannes before reaching these shores. The LKFF shows just how deep the talent pool is there, kicking off on 26 October with the UK premiere of The Day After, another Cannes entry this year.

From director Hong Sangsoo, this boozy comedy of confusion about mistaken identity will be followed with a Q&A with the film’s cinematographer Kim Hyungkoo. A veteran of the Korean industry, with 25 years experience, he has worked with some of the most revered directors in Korea, including Bong Joon-ho, Hong Sangsoo and Lee Chang-dong. For those unable to make opening night, Kim will also be present for a masterclass two days later alongside a screening of Kim Sung-soo’s Dead End (1993) in a rarely seen original print.

This showing comes as part of the festival’s special focus: Korean Noir, Illuminating the Dark Side of Society. Also included in the selection is Bryn Sung-hyun’s new movie The Merciless, a moody neo-noir filled with double-crossing gangsters that has already drawn comparisons to Quentin Tarantino. As for older films, for those that haven’t seen it, Kim Jee-woon’s mob tale A Bittersweet Life comes highly recommended; a film that blends violence and vengeance into a perfect symphony of destruction.

Further strands include Indie Firepower, Cinema Now, Women’s Voices and Classics Revisited. Shorts films and documentaries are also given focus, while Artist Video will examine two Korean artists working in film, Lim Minouk and Koo Donghee. With Lim’s interest in political activist cinema from the 1970s and Koo drawing from television and internet culture, the festival offers an inspiring selection of video works from both artists, further proof of just how vibrant the Korean moving image scene is right now.

James Mottram

The London Korean Film Festival takes place from 26 October to 19 November. For more details, visit:

1. Still from Bong Joon-ho’s Okja.