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Economic Promotion

  • The Charm of Independent Films in Seoul

  • Economic Promotion SMG 2726

    [Screening venues for independent films in neighborhoods throughout Seoul]

    • 2016 Public Screening of Independent Films (Indie Seoul 2016) to be held until December 2016
    • Films to be screened in 29 public cultural facilities in Seoul
    • Public libraries and art galleries will be transformed into movie theaters
    • Guaranteed screening of leading independent films, and opportunities for citizens to experience the fun and charm of such films

    Released earlier this year in April, Brooklyn is an Irish-British-Canadian film directed by John Crowley, the director of the film Boy A, and written by the popular British novelist Nick Hornby based on the Irish writer Colm Toibin’s novel of the same name. Although the film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress at the 2016 Academy Awards, it did not attract much attention due to its relatively small scale.

    Public organizations in Britain, including the BFI and BBC, invested USD 10 million in the production of Brooklyn, which premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim and generated USD 60 million in profit. Referring to films created outside the established movie production system and that pursue and remain faithful to the creators’ vision and spirit, independent films began attracting increasing attention in the 1980s. Stranger Than Paradise, directed by Jim Jarmusch, is a prime example of a popular independent film.

    Korea’s Hallyu (Korean Wave) independent films are no exception.

    Breathless Old Partner
    Produced in 2008 / Directed by Yang Ik-joon
    Old Partner
    Produced in 2008 / Directed by Lee Chung-ryoul


    The growing popularity of independent films has spread to Seoul as well. The films Breathless and Old Partner, which were box office hits a few years ago, were widely recognized for their outstanding cinematic quality at many leading film festivals at home and abroad. In particular, these films were screened at many theaters around the country, which is quite remarkable for independent films, and were great box office successes.

    Typical low-budget independent films, however, often fail to secure screenings at movie theaters despite their excellent cinematic quality. For this reason, passionate directors who are active in the independent film world often become frustrated, and many fail to realize their full potential due to the difficult circumstances under which they find themselves working. Aiming to remove many of the difficulties and disadvantages faced by these directors, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has decided to increase its support for the city’s independent film industry.

    SMG’s support for independent films

    In a bid to support the creation of independent films, SMG is placing the highest priority and concentrating its best efforts on making independent films more accessible to the general public. Since 2014, the city government has held the “Public Screening of Independent Films” program in order to give more citizens the opportunity to watch and enjoy independent films that receive little attention from movie theaters. This program will be carried out until December 2016.

    Indie Seoul 2016 Spirits’ Homecoming
    Indie Seoul 2016 Spirits’ Homecoming
    Produced in 2015 / Directed by Cho Jung-rae


    Films that have been screened so far include Cruel State, a documentary on the tragedy of the capsized Sewol ferry, in May 2016, and Spirits’ Homecoming, a film based on the testimonies of elderly women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese army that is attracting worldwide attention. Conducted by SMG and the Seoul Film Commission, the 2016 Public Screening of Independent Films program aims to promote the independent film industry by introducing various kinds of independent films that the general public otherwise has little chance to see.

    In 2015, SMG carried out the “Traveling Show of Great Films” program, which shows movie previews in middle and high school classrooms throughout Seoul, and screened excellent yet relatively inaccessible independent and documentary films for 1,757 students (687 third-year students, 556 second-year students, and 514 first-year students) at four middle and high schools in Seoul.
    After watching the films, students engaged in discussions on various topics related to film production through “Dialog with the Director” sessions, helping them enhance their critical thinking skills and offering valuable career advice for students interested in creating films.
    At one of these program events, the autobiographical animation Approved for Adoption, a story about the discrimination and homesickness experienced by the cartoonist and director after being adopted by a Belgian family, was screened, followed by a discussion session where Director Jeon Jung-sik engaged with the viewers in person.

    Approved for Adoption
    Produced in 2012 / Directed by Laurent Boileau and Jung Henin
    Director Jung Henin (Jeon Jung-sik)


    Cultural activities enjoyed by small groups! Independent films have returned to the neighborhoods of Seoul.

    The Public Screening of Independent Films program helps passionate producers of independent films overcome the difficult circumstances of the industry by giving them more opportunities to screen their films while also offering citizens greater access to various types of independent films.

    Independent films are regularly screened once or twice a month free of charge at 29 public screening venues in Seoul on a first-come-first-served basis. These venues are in fact public cultural facilities, such as libraries, art galleries, and museums, and were chosen to provide citizens easy access to independent films. What makes this program particularly valuable is that it emphasizes exchange and communication between those in the film industry and citizens, especially through sessions where viewers get the chance to meet the directors in person

    Regular screening of independent films


    Furthermore, the program aims to increase the number of public cultural facilities hosting public screenings from the current 29 to a total of 50, providing all citizens with greater access to independent films. Last year, 137 screening sessions were held at seven public screening venues—to the enjoyment of 3,965 citizens—and 41 Dialog with the Director sessions were held as well, attracting great interest and positive responses.

    Independent films screened at numerous locations in downtown Seoul.

    Korean independent films have been achieving outstanding success at international film festivals, which has been made possible by their low budgets. Despite the difficult production environment, excellent independent films are produced in Korea every year. Although it can be difficult to find screening venues for independent films, wherever you may be in Seoul, there will always be at least one nearby. Furthermore, open-air screenings have also become quite popular, as they allow citizens to escape from their daily routines, enjoy some time outside for a few hours, and appreciate independent films. For foreign tourists, such events will be yet another wonderful memory of their time in Seoul.

    Public Screening of Independent Films
    Public Screening of Independent Films
    Major screening venues