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South Korea Celebrates 100 Years of Cinema

In 1966, the Korean government and filmmakers agreed to designate Oct. 27, 1919, as “the day of cinema,” because “Fight for Justice,” its inaugural film was screened for the first time on that day. In its 100th year, the industry is celebrating the event in a critical, yet festive fashion.

“Korean cinema had its earliest beginning at the time of the March First Independence Movement, when Korea fought for independence,” said Korean actress Chang Mi-hee (“Claire’s Camera”), who is also the co-head of Korean Film Council’s committee for the centenary anniversary celebration project at a press event in April. “With veteran filmmakers who devoted their lives to pioneer Korean cinema for the past hundred years, we hope to organize a forum for celebration.”

To recognize the 100th anniversary, the Korean Film Council (Kofic) has lined up several projects, including a “dictionary” of Korean filmmakers, digital restoration of old films, academic conferences and production of a 100-part omnibus film, directed by 100 Korean filmmakers: 50 men and 50 women. High-profile helmers such as Lee Joon-ik (“King and the Clown”), J.K. Youn (“Ode to My Father”), Lee Jung-hyang (“A Reason to Live”) and Kang Je-kyu (“TaeGukGi: Brotherhood of War”) were announced as some of the talent involved in that film.

“We have so far confirmed 70 filmmakers,” said director Lee Min-yong (“A Hot Roof”) at the April event. “We will finish recruiting the rest of the group and will start releasing each part on YouTube from early October.”

In addition to the project, Kofic, the Jeonju Intl. Film Festival and Korean Film Archive joined forces to dedicate two special sections for Korean films at the recent Jeonju fest. The lineup included Shin Sang-ok’s “The Flower in Hell” from the 1950s and Jang Sun-woo’s Gwangju Democratic Uprising film “A Petal,” as well as more recent films such as the director’s cut of Na Hong-jin’s “The Yellow Sea.”

The Korean Film Archive (Kofa), which film academic Joo Jin-sook took over as the director last year, is also organizing a series of special screenings to celebrate, from May through November. Kofa’s focus will be technology, women and independent cinema. In May, its special program Discovery, Restoration and Re-Creation will showcase films with technological significance. The lineup includes the country’s first color film, “The Rose of Sharon,” by Ahn Cheol-yeong, and “Snowpiercer,” South Korea’s last feature film shot in 35mm, by Bong Joon-ho.

In exhibition, a bill for the improvement of the cinemagoing environment for the disabled was proposed in the national assembly on April 22, National Disabled Persons Day.

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