Two distinctive and artistic films that have won acclaim at recent international film festivals will appear in local cinemas in November.
The compelling independent movies are grabbing viewers' time and attention in the blockbuster-filled market thanks to their thought-provoking and heartwarming plots.
'Set Me Free'
The first on the list is "Set Me Free," a coming-of-age film centering on a 17-year-old boy who grew up in a group home, neglected by his irresponsible parents and by society.
Director Kim Tae-yong (no relation to the film director of the same name who married Chinese actress Tang Wei) borrows from his experience of growing up in a group home sponsored by a Catholic church to tell the compelling story of a lonely teenager who had to grow up faster than others. As the Korean title, "Giant," suggests, the boy is physically grown up, but remains a child at heart who longs for love and care from his parents and from society.
"I knew my parents could not take care of me so I wanted to stay at the group home as long as possible," Kim said during a press screening of his film. "I did everything I could to stay there, (and) even tried to become a priest even though I was not a devoted Christian."
Kim was curious about how far he would have had to go in order to stay at the shelter. This is how his feature debut film got started, centering on the protagonist Young-jae played by up-and-coming actor Choi Woo-sik.
Young-jae lives in the "House of Isaac" with younger kids who have nowhere to go. Not knowing when he will be kicked out of the house, he pretends to be a good and pious boy before his foster parents. Though he steals donated goods from the church to sell to his friends, he also sings in the church choir, voluntarily does chores and studies to attend a seminary to become a priest.
His double life reflects the burdens and sincerity of a shrewd teenager, according to the director.
The film was screened at this year's Busan International Film Festival and won the Citizen Critics' award. Choi received the Actor of the Year award.
"Set Me Free" arrives in theatres on Nov. 13.
The artistic and visually appeasing flick "Late Spring" is set in a rural part of South Jeolla Province in the 1960s, when Korean soldiers were sent to fight in the Vietnam War.
The film is helmed by "26 Years" director Cho Keun-hyun, who, using his background in painting, tells the heartwarming story of a genius artist.
When prominent sculptor Jun-koo (Park Yong-woo) finds out that he is slowly dying of progressive total paralysis, he loses his reason to live. In order to spark his artistic passion and help him find meaning in life, his wife Jung-sook (Kim Seo-hyung) hires Min-kyung (Lee Yoo-young) to sit for him as a nude model.
With the help of Min-kyung, Jun-koo regains his passion and rediscovers a sense of beauty. "My artwork greeted spring, while my body became winter," Jun-koo says.
"I was only able to search for beauty in people's body figures," Jun-koo tells Min-kyung. "But through you, I finally realised hidden beauty inside a person's face, which illustrates traces of life."
Echoing Jun-koo's comment, director Cho wanted to express the beauty of life and pure love through this film, though we live in a violent and provocative world.
"While many films talk about artists, I didn't like the stereotypes of depicting them as grumpy or often ill-tempered," said Cho during a press conference for the film in Seoul. "Also, when working with the models, especially nude models, it is very unlikely … (that the artist will) fall in love with them, unlike what people would expect. Artists view models as their artistic inspiration and subject."
Cho himself was an artist who studied fine arts at Seoul National University and worked as a production designer for a number of films.
The film recently won three awards at the Milano International Film Festival. Along with the Best Actress award for emerging actress Lee Yoo-young and Best Cinematography award, it was the first Korean work to win the Best Film award.
It has been invited to other international film festivals including in Arizona, where it received the Best Foreign Feature prize; Dallas; and Madrid, where it won Best Foreign Language Film award and Best Lead Actress in a Foreign Language Film for Kim Seo-hyung.
"Late Spring" opens in theatres on Nov. 20.