MoMA ContemporAsian: Focus on South Korea

When 5 Aug 2013 - 11 Aug 2013
Where Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 St
New York, NY 10019
United States
Enquiry (212) 708 9400


Nam-yeong-dong (National Security). 2012. South Korea. Directed by Chung Ji-young.

August 5 – August 11, 2013

Asian cinema is fast becoming a cinema without borders. Digital filmmaking and international coproductions are rapidly transforming an industry in which the transnational flow of talent and resources, even between the U.S. and Asia, has become the norm. In the monthly exhibition ContemporAsian, MoMA showcases films that get little exposure outside of their home countries or on the international festival circuit, but which engage the various styles, histories, and changes in Asian cinema. Presented in special weeklong engagements, the films in the series include recent independent gems by both new and established filmmakers whose work represent the rapidly transforming visual culture of the region. Not only are audiences given the rare chance to enjoy these undistributed films on the big screen—they also experience the diversity and richness of Asian cinema in all its many forms.

In August, Focus on South Korea, a special multifilm program, celebrates one of the most successful national cinemas on the global film circuit. The selections exemplify a flourishing, idiosyncratic cinema with plenty of international appeal, one in which filmmakers engage in a vivid critical analysis of social realities, explore subject matters rarely encountered in Korean films of the past, and confidently employ a wide variety of stylistic approaches.

Nam-yeong-dong (National Security)
2012. South Korea. Directed by Chung Ji-young. With Park Weon-sang, Lee Kyeong-yeong, Kim Gye-nam. Joining in the global discourse on torture, Chung’s National Security provides an unrelenting look at the violent corruption behind South Korea’s military rule in the 1980s. Grounded in the real-life experience of torture survivor cum respected politician Kim Geun-tae, the film chronicles—in painstakingly visceral detail—the brutality he endured over a 22-day period in the notorious Nam Young-dong detention center. This is a hard-hitting reminder of the long-term repercussions of institutionalized torture at both the personal and national level. In Korean; English subtitles. 110 min.

Jam Mot Deu-neun Bam (Sleepless Night)
2012. South Korea. Directed by Jang Kun-jae. A languorous chronicle of the daily—and nightly—routines of a thirty-something couple comfortably settled in their second year of marriage, Sleepless Night paints a refreshingly naturalistic portrait of intimacy. Dutifully working menial jobs during the day, the couple spends their evenings eating, talking, cooking, sleeping, arguing, and making love, all the while contemplating the pros and cons of procreation. Like any meaningful relationship, the film’s quiet power lies in the cumulative effect of the quotidian. Fittingly shot with an unobtrusive and unadorned lens, the film evokes plenty of sentiment without ever getting sentimental. Winner of the Grand Prize and Audience Award at the 2012 Joenju International Film Festival. In Korean; English subtitles. 65 min.

White Night
2012. South Korea. Directed by Lee Song-he-il. With Won Tae-hee; Lee I-Kyeong. After living abroad for two years, flight attendant Won-gyu returns to Seoul on a one-night layover seeking not just companionship, but revenge on the thugs who perpetrated a hate crime against him before he left the city. What begins as a simple sexual encounter with a young motorcycle courier evolves into a complex relationship, as the young men become lovers, friends, enemies, and strangers, all in the course of a single evening. Refusing both romanticism and neat closure, Lee opts for a subtle but frank approach and a minimalist aesthetic—managing to say a lot with very few words. In Korean; English subtitles. 75 min.

Gong-jeong-sa-hoe (Azooma)
2012. South Korea. Directed by Lee Ji-Seong. With Jang Young-nam, Ma Dong-seok, Hwag Tae-gwang. Frustrated by the apathy and utter incompetence of the police investigating her daughter’s rape and kidnapping, Azooma decides to take matters into her own hands—and mere imprisonment begins to seem an inadequate punishment. This unrelenting, fast-paced thriller unfolds in fragmented flashbacks, as Azooma adopts a policy of rogue justice—and puts her experience as a dental hygienist to sadistically satisfying use. In Korean; English subtitles. 74 min.

El Kkon-do-reu-Pasa (El Condor Pasa)
2012. South Korea. Directed by Jeon Soo-il. With Cho Jae-hyun, Bae Jeon-hua. “Who listens to confessions of priests and forgives them?” whispers Soo-hyeun to Father Park after learning about the “special” relationship he had with her recently murdered and molested younger sister. Veteran director Jeon’s eighth feature, a psychologically complex examination of guilt and forgiveness that extends far beyond the parameters of penance, renders the suffering of its main characters through beautifully austere images and a whitewashed color scheme reminiscent of the films of Michael Haneke. In Korean, English subtitles. 100 min.

For the complete schedule of screenings, please click here.