Hidden Figures: Ha Gil-jong

In the 1970s, Ha Gil-jong shook up Korean cinema, offering a thrillingly diverse series of features which critiqued the contemporary military dictatorship and put him in constant battle with film censors.

The three films in this programme, co-curated with the Barbican, embrace entirely different styles and genres – melodrama, comedy and horror – to comment and interrogate a troubled present.

Ha died at the tragically young age of 37, the same age as Fassbinder, with whom he has been compared, along with Vigo and Pasolini. We are delighted to show a selection of his work, very rarely screened in the UK, back on the big screen.

The Pollen of Flowers

Pollen Flowers 1
Film info

Director: Ha Gil-jong
Cast: Namkoong Won, Choi ji-hee, Kim Ji-young, Yun So-ra
85mins, 1972

From his first feature, Ha Gil-jong embraced subversion and provocation, as the fractious set-up between a corrupt businessman and his mistress is upended when he brings his male secretary and  lover into their home.

The name of the mistress’ mansion – the ‘Blue House’, also the name of the residence of the South Korean head of state – makes the political implications of Ha’s film clear, with sharp jabs at the Park Chung-Hee regime. Regarded as the first Korean film to depict a same sex relationship, it’s an unflinching satire with echoes of Pasolini’s Teorema and the films of Kim Ki-young.

This screening will be introduced by Alex Davidson. Alex Davidson is a cinema curator at the Barbican, a former programmer for JW3 and a former curator for the BFI National Archive.

Barbican Cinema, 04 Nov 2019 6:30 pm

The March of Fools

March Of Fools 1
Film info

Director: Ha Gil-jong
Cast: Yun Mun-seop, Ha Jae-young, Lee Young-ok, Kim Ill-young, Kim Yeong-suk
105mins, 1975

A much beloved Korean cinema classic from 1975, The March of Fools starts off as a bawdy comedy, as two slacker students get drunk and try to get laid, with varying degrees of success. Slowly the tone shifts into melancholy, as the two men consider their futures, in a repressive society where they feel out of place.

Although censored for its depiction of life under military dictatorship, The March of Fools remains a unique and exhilarating story of youth in crisis, while its fashions, music and shots of the streets of Seoul make it an invaluable time capsule of 1970s Korean youth culture.

This screening will be introduced by Darcy Paquet. Darcy Paquet is an American film critic, university lecturer, author and actor. He has been living in Seoul since 1997 and contributes regularly to various publications on Korean cinema.

Barbican Cinema, 06 Nov 2019 8:30 pm

The Ascension of Han-ne

Ascension Of Hane Ne 2
Film info

Director: Ha Gil-jong
Cast: Hah Myung-joong, Jeon Young-sun, Hwang Hae
96mins, 1977

In 19th century Korea, a woman is saved from a suicide attempt and brought back to the village of her rescuer. Here, she is regarded with fear and suspicion, with many believing she will bring them bad luck owing to the pronouncements of a corrupt shaman.

Although set far in the past, Ha critiques the present, as he explores how folkloric and often misogynist traditions echo into the present day, in a society framed by archaic patriarchal convention. Often disturbing, and audacious in its use of tropes from traditional ghost stories, it’s one of Ha’s most intriguing films.

This screening will be introduced by Hyun Jin Cho.

Barbican Cinema, 10 Nov 2019 6:00 pm