Thursday, 17 September 2009

Life In Korea-The Movies

I love movies. Freaking love them. No movie is too bad (andd yes, I have seen The Room) to be watched by me. And since coming here, I find out that the Koreans love movies too.

The Korean film industry has really jumped on the success of films like Joint Security Area, Oldboy (and the Vengeance series), The Host and, most recently, Haeundae, a Day After Tomorrow style disaster movie about a tsunami hitting a resort city. Don't get me wrong, the majority of Korean movies are not that great by western standards-there seems to be a requirement that each one has a slow motion shot of their lead characters emoting as best they can-but every so often you get a diamond from the rough. Part of the success comes down to national pride. I ask my students why they like Haeundae (incidentally, I think it's awful) and the most common answer is "It's Korean!". Korea makes so many movies that international hits (District 9, Inglourious Basterds) are pushed back to the autumn.

And it got me thinking about the weakness of our own film industry. And I realised the problem. In Korea, cinemas are required to show a certain amount of Korean movies on their screens. It's the same in France. But in England we are not burdened with a desire to build an exportable good and service.

This is why the local cineworld is awash with sequels, hooligan movies and torture porn. If there were a guaranteed audience for our films, either through regulation or incentives, then it would be a real boost. Some of my favourite films are British ones (Dead Man's Shoes, In The Loop, Sunshine, Millions, Hot Fuzz) and only one of these has made real cash money. If the UK cared half as much about its industry as the French and the Koreans, then it would be a viable source of income and jobs in a period where both are sorely needed.

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