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Bong Joon-ho: A modern Korean master

Get to know the director behind one of the most talked about films of 2019, Parasite. Films from the South dedicates a comprehensive retrospective to one of this year’s Directors Special Portraits, Bong Joon-ho.

Av 22. sep 2020

Bong Joon-ho was the talk of the town when his last film Parasite premiered in Cannes last year. It received ecstatic reviews from critics and was a favourite among bookmakers to win the Palme d’or. Which it did, as the first ever Korean film. The enthusiasm was not slighted when Parasite also brought home an Academy Award for Best Picture. We are obviously very proud to present the full scope of Bong’s filmography, as Parasite is only the last masterpiece from a career of many hidden gems that not many have had the chance to experience.

From the very beginning, Bong has demonstrated an extraordinary ability to reach both a blockbuster-loving and a more arthouse-bended crowd, and to switch between genres. If you loved Parasite, be sure to plan ahead and secure a seat to as many of these films as you are able to. Not only are most of them hard to come by through on-demand providers, but the big screen is definitely the best way to watch Bong’s work.

Films included in the series:

Barking Dogs Never Bite

An indolent university lecturer living on his pregnant wife’s salary sits at home idly wondering how to rustle up the bribe that will buy him a professorship. But the constant yapping of a small dog somewhere in the apartment block drives him crazy; he prowls the corridors with murder in his heart…Through the interwoven stories of the lecturer, his wife, the pet loving girl from the neighbourhood office and the janitor with a taste for dog stew, Bong builds a microcosm of Korean society which feels so believable it seems rash to call it satire. TIFF

Peullandaseu-ui Gae / South Korea / 2000

Memories of Murder

Between the years of 1986 and 1991, a small village in Korea’s Gyeonggi Province is witness to a series of grotesque and brutal rape murders, all in the same manner. In a country that has never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial killer grow louder, and intense media frenzy follows. A rural cop and a special detective from the capital begin to investigate, and their rude measures become more desperate with each new corpse found, as they begin to transform under pressure. Blackly humorous, thought-provoking and horrifying. Based on a true story.

Sarin ui chu-eok / South Korea / 2003

The Host       

A common feature of South Korean films is the ability to turn well-known genres into something completely new. The Host is a magnificent example of just this, a monster film that is about so much more than just senseless destruction (although of course it also occurs here). Lurching behind the façade is also a more serious theme, as the film is based on a real-life incident in which the US military emptied large amounts of formaldehyde into the Han River. With the rare combination of a well-written script, brilliant actors and a political bite, Bong Joon-ho delivers another masterpiece. Cinemateket

Gwoemul / South Korea / 2006

Mother

In a small Korean village, a widow lives together with her son Do-joon. One evening, Do-joon follows a young girl into an uninhabited house. The next morning, the body of the young girl is discovered on the roof of the house, and all the clues points in the direction of Do-joon. Convinced that he is innocent and willing to do anything to prove it, his mother initiates her own investigation of the case. The title role is held by one of South Korea's great national treasures, Hya-ja Kim, in her crowning achievement by far.

Madeo / South Korea / 2009

Snowpiercer

In the near future, a failed climate experiment has led to a second ice age. The sole survivors are aboard a high-speed train constantly on the move. A class system reigns – the poor inhabiting the tail section, the wealthy and powerful in the front. A riot takes place, and a group of rebels fight their way through the train to gain control of its engine. The film marks Bong's English-language debut, with an international cast. It shifts frequently in tone and in genre, train car by train car, from dystopia to absurd and vivid cheerfulness. Mixed with carefully choreographed fight scenes, this is a visually striking, original and highly entertaining sci-fi adventure.

Snowpiercer / South Korea, Czech Republic, USA, France / 2013

Parasite 

Last year's Palme d'Or winner and opening film at the Films from the South festival is a must-see. It follows a working-class family that, by sheer chance, gets the opportunity to seriously improve their living conditions after the son is hired as a tutor for a rich teenage girl. Soon, the rest of the family is invited to fill other positions in the rich family's home, with disastrous consequences. Parasite is a meticulously crafted, immersive and truly virtuoso cinematic achievement. Director Bong Joon-ho has set a new golden standard for depictions of class conflict on the silver screen.

Parasite will be available to view on Films from the South’s online streaming platform only.

Gisaengchung / Sør-Korea / 2019