x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

South Korea storms the silver screen at Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2012

This year's ADFF showcases the best of South Korean cinema. So what makes it the fastest growing film industry of the past decade?

A scene from the movie Masquerade, which is a follow-up to 2011's Late Blossom. Courtesy ADFF
A scene from the movie Masquerade, which is a follow-up to 2011's Late Blossom. Courtesy ADFF

From the turn of the century onwards, South Korean cinema has blazed a trail in providing movies that you simply don't see in most mainstream markets. Often complex, occasionally shocking, always thought-provoking, this meteoric rise has seen directors shake off the restrictions of conventional filmmaking and make films that delight, amaze and affect - a cross-section of which is highlighted in this week's Abu Dhabi Film Festival schedule.

Arguably the most celebrated and notorious of the modern Korean film revolutionaries is Park Chan-Wook, the filmmaker responsible for The Vengeance Trilogy, which included the seminal Oldboy (currently being remade by Spike Lee). His breakthrough film, 2000's Joint Security Area, shows the early promise of a man now embraced by Hollywood (his first English-language film, Stoker, starring Nicole Kidman, will be released next year).

Another favourite from the past decade, and on show at the ADFF, is the action-comedy The Good, The Bad and The Weird, a Western directed by Kim Ji-woon, whose new film The Last Stand, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is one of the most anticipated films of next year.

While the big names of recent years have been embraced by the American studios, the festival also highlights new work from young and exciting Korean filmmaking talent. Of the new titles, the ones to look out for include Choo Chang-min's historical interpretation Masquerade, the follow up to his 2011 sleeper hit Late Blossom, starring Joint Security Area's Lee Byung-Hun. Another notable title is Sung-hee's A Werewolf Boy, which has delighted crowds at this year's Toronto International Film Festival and provides a unique twist on the current trend for fantasy-based romance stories.

It's clear that the post-2000 explosion of Korean cinematic gems has inspired and spawned a new generation of filmmakers - and provides fans with a rich vein of challenging cinema to discover and enjoy.