KFN Summer Nights – Programme Note

In collaboration with the students from the Film Studies, Programming and Curation MA at the National Film and Television School, the Korean Cultural Centre UK is delighted to welcome audiences for another season of Korean Film Nights 2022. As always, our year-long programme aims to foster a deeper understanding of Korean cinema and culture through thematically curated film seasons. For us, this is an opportunity to spotlight both overlooked classics as well as more recent indie gems.

As we enter the summer months, we are ushering in (almost) everyone’s favourite season with a collection of films that capture the palpable balmy energy that comes around at this time of year. Within our collection of films for Summer Nights we will explore the rich aesthetic textures that emerge in cinematic depictions of the distinctive Korean summertime.

Korean weather is volatile, particularly in the summer, where temperatures soar up to 37 degrees and monsoon showers overwhelm in an instant. Amongst this climactic uncertainty are all kinds of sensory delights, with sounds, smells, textures, and tastes providing a unique ambiance that appears across cinematic representations of the season. Our Summer Nights programme seeks to harness these aesthetic qualities as the perfect backdrop to explore fleeting romances, intimate domesticity, internal struggle; all the crucial stages one experiences in a lifetime, so that the meaning and experience of summer takes on infinite forms.

In our opening two films, we begin by looking at summer during the time of youth that is often defined by the growing pains of adolescence. In Yoon Ga-eun’s The House of Us (2019), the summer season provides the setting for escapist wonder for a group of children away from their fraught lives at home. Our next screening, Kim Bora’s acclaimed feature debut House of Hummingbird (2018), arrives at a slightly later point, but one that remains rife with the familiar issues that arise while growing up. What emerges is a kinship between the summer season and our childhoods, offering us an opportunity to explore feelings of nostalgia and our own memories of summer.

The next stage in our journey sees the summer months arrive during adulthood where the good weather and pleasant atmosphere is almost something of an inconvenience. In novelist-turned-filmmaker Zhang Lu’s tender romance, Gyeongju (2014), we encounter a man in the throes of grief, processing the death of a friend. Over the course of a particularly hot day and night we see his healing process imbued with summer’s beaming glow. For the couple at the centre of Sleepless Night (2012), the stuffy summer months have come to embody the malaise that has set into their lives. In their compact apartment they use the time to ponder the next steps to take into their uncertain future.

Finally, we will take a look at summer as we reach our old age. Our closing film, Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry (2010), features the legendary actress Yun Jung-hee in the lead role as a grandmother who embarks on a new creative journey; however, it seems that time is no longer on her side. A beautiful rumination on life and death, the summertime setting reveals itself as a time for rebirth and an opportunity for potential change.

The laid-back charm and the heightened emotions of the Korean summer will be presented over the course of this season via films and other fun events. To go alongside our screenings, we will be hosting accompanying discussions with special guests that aim to further explore what makes up a Korean summertime.


Sam Elder