The Korea Herald


Seoul film fest explores meaning of ‘expat’

By Korea Herald

Published : Sept. 1, 2016 - 17:40

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The Korea International Expat Film Festival will be opening in Seoul on Sept. 9-11 for its second annual run.

The festival shows films from Korea and abroad that are either made with a very low budget or are by or about expats.

“We really hope that our programming will answer the question ‘What is an expat?’ and how is that different from what we commonly associate with it,” said KIXFF organizer Kevin Lambert. “And we hope our answer is one that reflects positively and also inspires people to create things on their own.”

Among the films to be shown is “Ben and Ara,” which follows two students of religion with very different outlooks -- one is a nonreligious white American, the other a Nigerian Muslim -- and the relationship that develops between them.

Another is “Group Portrait,” a documentary about the experiences of migrant teenagers in Europe. It is one of two films that will be shown for free in a gallery-style screen, where the films are shown on a loop and viewers can freely walk in and out.

“I felt that these were pieces that were complementary to each other and at the same time lent themselves well to communal viewing,” Lambert said. “Whether it’s to discuss it while you watch it, but also to walk away from and take in a little bit at a time, because sometimes it can be a bit much to absorb all of these stories at one time.”

Fictional work is also being shown, including “Ditches” about manual laborers struggling to get by in a rural Argentinian village where girls are going missing, and “60 Spanish Cigarettes” by last year’s KIXFF winner for best expat feature Mark John Ostrowski.

The opening ceremony will be held at EMU arts center in Gwanghwamun, with the Saturday and Sunday screenings at the Deutsche Schule International Seoul in Hannam-dong. Lambert said there will be refreshments onsite and that the event will be a good place to bring filmmakers together.

“This year, even more than last year, will be a chance to meet and mingle. To hang out and experience it all in one place and build a community,” he said. “This year we don’t have a workshop in the festival but we are continuing to have our monthly filmmakers workshops, so that’s how we will continue to grow the film community here.”

Lambert said they had not tried to make the festival bigger but tried to improve in other ways, such as in the feedback they gave to directors who submitted work. A team of volunteers reviewed the films, with their comments passed on almost unfiltered to the directors.

“Some (reviewers) of course come from a stronger film background so they do approach it a bit more academically. But for a lot of reviewers, they are just film lovers so they just approach it from the eyes of someone who just loves film,” Lambert explained.

A still from “Ditches” by Francisco J. Paparella, which will be playing at the KIXFF. A still from “Ditches” by Francisco J. Paparella, which will be playing at the KIXFF.

“I think the reviewers are still very conscious to not be too harsh, but there’s always a few people who don’t pull any punches and they land a bit too solidly.

“But I think filmmakers need to grow a thick skin and it’s part of the business.”

The festival also tries to support filmmakers by showing shorts by local directors at the opening and closing events.

The opening party will also show a selection of music videos featuring a wide range of artists, including a Russian metal band, experimental dance and a Korean post-rock electronica band.

“We accept music videos because it is a common thing that low-budget filmmakers will make,” Lambert said. “It’s usually a gateway film for many filmmakers because you don’t have to worry about elaborate audio while you are shooting. It also allows for a lot of freedom in what you can shoot.”

Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are 15,000 won ($13.39) and 10,000 won for other screenings. They will be available at the door or online from Friday at a 20 percent discount on the festival’s website,