Korea, That Distant But Nearby Country / Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

The audience outside the Infanta Multicinema during the first day of the South Korean cinema week in Havana (14ymedio)
The audience outside the Infanta Multicinema during the first day of the South Korean cinema week in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 28 May 2016 — When Cuban children playing mention distant countries, they talk about Singapore, Burundi and Korea. But in the latter case, they do not think about the country controlled by Kim Jong-un, but the one on other end of the peninsula, where Samsung was born. With film production the same thing happens: the theaters fill up for productions coming from the land of Hyundai and remain empty if the films come from the country’s “eternal president.”

With all seats occupied and dozens of people outside the theater, the screening of the first movie of South Korean Film Week in Havana occurred this Thursday at the Infanta Multicinema. The event, which this year celebrates its third edition, was organized by Cinemateca de Cuba with the Cuba-Korea Exchange Association.

The audience that gathered in the centrally located theater turned out to be very diverse, especially considering that Cuba does not have diplomatic relations with South Korea and this Asian country lacks official representation on the island. Nevertheless, officials from the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) attended, along with the very official Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Also in attendance were South Korean students residing on the island and several diplomatic representatives of other nations, including the ambassador of the People’s Republic of China.

The founder of the Busan International Film Festival, Kim Dong-Ho gave the welcome in Spanish and said that a week of the films of his country would help with “understanding Korea” and “improving our relationship.” After he praised the cultural level of Cubans he closed with an emotional “thank you” that hastened the applause of spectators. Then came darkness and with it a point of light that widened on the screen.

The night gave way to “A Hard Day,” by South Korean director Kim Seong-Hoon. The thriller maintained its suspense until the end, with the avatars of Detective Gun-Su, trying to hide the body of a person he ran over. A standing ovation just as the credits started to roll confirmed that the organizers were right to choose this film to “break the ice” for the week.

Among those responsible for the careful film selection is Susana Molina, vice president of ICAIC, who told 14ymedio that “all the films in previous years have been good quality, but the curation of these was done by Tony Mason and also this edition presents a wider program.”

The programming for Korean film week will run until next Thursday. Stand outs among the films are titles such as: I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, Moebius, 200 Pounds Beauty, Coin Locker Girl, and The Satellite Girl and the Milk Cow. Productions that deal with romance and survival in a world of violence, as well as police dramas and the conflicts of an obese girl trying to make it in the world of pop music.

However, few moments are likely to exceed those of opening night, when the cinema mixed diplomacy with a certain dash of showbiz. After the screening of the first film, the celebrations moved to the Bar Su Restaurante in Miramar, where the surprise of the evening was the presentation of young Cubans who sang in Korean and danced typical dances of the region.

From the tables nearest the stage well-known actors such as Enrique Molina, Isabel Santos and Luisa Maria Jimenez applauded and laughed, all spellbound by that distant but nearby country.