This Week in South Korean Film - 12/23/2020

Diaspora, Delays, and Disappointments

The only new South Korean movie this week is Fiction and Other Realities. I’ve also seen it referred to as Love and Busking, with busking, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, referring to the act of playing music in the street with passers by being allowed to donate money as they see fit. To describe this as a South Korean movie is a bit misleading though. The lead actor, as well as the screenwriter/director, is Bobby Choy, who’s Korean-American, and the movie made its rounds on the Asian-American film circuit long before being released in South Korea.

Nevertheless in all official sources I can find the movie is listed as a South Korean / American co-production, and the credits indicate that funding was acquired from South Korean sources. This isn’t so surprising- South Koreans have long been interested in the fate of other Koreans in diaspora and projects discussing such persons have long been greenlit whether it comes to fiction, documentaries, or even K-Pop. By sheer coincidence one of the movies I’m reviewing this week, We Are Brothers, deals with the topic.

I should note that I reviewed Fiction and Other Realities a couple of weeks ago here. It had been set for release a couple of weeks back originally, and most likely moved to Christmas because the previous release date was extremely crowded, as I mentioned at the time. Of course, Fiction and Other Realities isn’t setting the box office on fire in any case. Wonder Woman 1984 will accomplish that by a wide margin. New Year Blues, which had at least been set as a final major release for the year, has been postponed indefinitely due to increased COVID-19 restrictions.

Aesthetically Fiction and Other Realities is an all right enough movie. By complete accident the movie hits a sweet spot in terms of being a musically themed foreign style romance, which has traditionally been appealing in South Korea. But independent movies with Korean actors haven’t had much luck replicating that formula. Though there have been quite a few musical movies this year, Fiction and Other Realities is the first one I’ve actually seen mainly because I was invited to the press screening- which turned out to be laughably early as it predated the movie’s being pushed back two weeks.

I don’t have anything against musicals personally. It’s just that even in pandemic times a lot of movies are released in South Korea, and while I’ve heard of most of them I can only watch so many. As usual, I am open to suggestions when it comes to trends of particular interest.