Cinema on the Road: A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea

한국영화 씻김

Cinema On The Road
Film info

Director: Jang Sun-woo
Cast: Im Kwon-taek, Lee ChJang-ho, Chung Ji-young, Park Kwang-su
52 mins, 1995

The end of the 1980’s witnessed profound transformations in the Korean film industry. Some regulatory restrictions on Korean filmmakers were lifted, opening the way for a new generation of directors to seek other modes of expression, production and exhibition. The relaxation of censorship laws allowed filmmakers to work with more freedom and to address more pressing social issues. On the other side market laws looked towards globalisation, opening the exhibition market to foreign film, especially from Hollywood and Hong Kong. It was against this background that Jang Sun-woo, one of the most singular Korean filmmakers, set this excellent essay film about the situation of Korean cinema in the mid-90s. The film was a commission from the British Film Institute for their 1995 series on the “100 Centenary of Cinema” and it is narrated by Tony Rayns. Jang Sun-woo veers off on a journey through the history of Korea and Korean independent cinema, traveling the country, interviewing people he finds along on their impressions of Korean cinema, and making references to recent relevant political events. He edits selected excerpts of films with conversations with some established and new filmmakers such as Im Kwon-taek, Lee Chang-ho, Park Kwang-su or Chung Ji-young on their impressions of independent film production in Korea. The film makes a strong case for a socially committed cinema in face of the influx of Hollywood imports, a cinema that would be able to keep its independence and push for change, reflecting political and social aspects of Korean life and history.