A look at Kim Ryang’s ‘Film Youth, Dong-ho’ and Lim Yu-ri’s ‘Echo’

A scene from “Film Youth, Dong-ho “

A scene from “Film Youth, Dong-ho “

By  Jeon Chan-il *

CANNES:  “Film Youth, Dong-ho” is a well-made ‘creative documentary’ that penetrates the human side of former Busan Film Festival Chairman Kim Dong-ho. Twenty-six-year-old director Yuri Lim’s “Echo”, attracted attention for its rare director’s challenge and vision even though it failed to win an award.

Although it is a bit late, let’s take a look at the two Korean films that were officially invited to Cannes this year along with “Veteran 2”.

“Film Youth, Dong-ho” is a ‘well-made’ documentary about Kim Dong-ho, 87, former executive chairman and chairman of the Busan International Film Festival. It was produced by “International News” in Busan.

This is Kim Ryang’s fourth feature-length directorial work, following “Dream House on the Border” (2013), “Eternal Resident” (2015), and “Let’s Go to the Sea” (2020).

The director, who has been focusing on big issues such as the border and displacement between France and Korea, this time focused on the life of a giant in the Korean film industry. It borrows from the genre of ‘creative documentary’, which is common in Europe.

At the young age of 59, the film was reborn as the first executive chairman of the 1st Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), which was launched in September 1996, and after that, until he officially left BIFF, with which he had had many ups and downs, in 2010.

The history is relatively detailed yet calm. Among them, the most impressive is the part related to the deliberation of director Neil Jordan’s “The Crying Game” (1992) and director Sergei M. Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” (1925), which occurred while he was chairman of the Performance Ethics Committee (March 1993~March 1995).

By violating public interest regulations at the time and allowing brief exposure of the genitals, the dramatic perfection of the film was not damaged, and one of the most controversial works in world film history, which had been banned from import for reasons such as praising Soviet communism, was reconsidered and passed.

The exciting retirement party held by actress Juliette Binoche and the late director Abbas Kiarostami was equally impressive.

Naturally, quite a few interviewees reveal their relationships, memories, and memories with Kim Dong-ho.

Directors such as Im Kwon-taek, Lee Chang-dong, Ji-young Jeong, and Hirokazu Kore-eda, actors such as Park Jeong-ja, Ye Ji-won, and Jo In-seong, and Cannes Executive Committee Chairman Thierry Fremaux and other film festival officials.

It’s easy to guess what they will say. Those comments cannot be described as blind heroism or exaggeration. Although large and small praises are poured toward his achievements, they are based on ‘facts.’ There is a feeling that it is quite the opposite. What runs through the movie is Kim Dong-ho’s human side.

Still cuts from the documentary ‘Film Youth, Dong-ho’, which reexamines the life of Kim Dong-ho, former executive chairman of the Busan International Film Festival. Provided by “International Newspaper”

Still cuts from the documentary ‘Film Youth, Dong-ho’, which reexamines the life of Kim Dong-ho, former executive chairman of the Busan International Film Festival. Provided by “International Newspaper”


Among the interviewees, the one who touches my heart the most is Thierry Fremaux. He cited Kim Dong-ho’s unique virtue as ‘Open Collaboration’ and expressed his wish for the next Kim Dong-ho. It is unclear whether Thierry’s wish can actually be realized. In any case, he posed a kind of challenge to our fellow Korean filmmakers.

Of course, the movie is not without its disappointments. I wonder if it would have been better if certain interviewees appeared too often or if at least one interview with a critic had been included, but let’s move on.

There are some who wish that his actions since 2010 had been covered in more detail, but let’s just say that. The biggest regret of this documentary is that the interview with former BIFF Chairman Lee Yong-gwan was not included.

This is because, along with former chairman Jeon Yang-jun and (the late) former vice-chairman Kim Ji-seok, he was a decisive factor that made today’s Kim Dong-ho possible. Until he left BIFF in disgrace last year, wasn’t Lee Yong-kwan and Kim Dong-ho the ‘BIFF signposts’? It would not be an exaggeration to say that he is ‘Little Kim Dong-ho’.

As an official who worked at BIFF from 2009 to 2016, I know the situation better than anyone else, so I know why such a situation occurred.

However, judging from the reception and criticism perspective rather than the production and creation side, there is no way not to say that the absence of Lee Yong-gwan is a fatal problem of this documentary.

Nevertheless, as a documentary, we cannot help but acknowledge the cinematic (historical) significance of “Film Youth, Dongho”.

With this invitation, Kim Dong-ho, a graduate of the Korean film industry, has entered the ranks of ‘classics’ recognized by the world’s best film festivals, and a director who studied and lived in France and even earned a doctorate from the Paris High School of Social Sciences has been invited to the Cannes Film Festival for the first time.

That’s true. I end the story about this film by conveying the plot the director sent me.

“I started with the concept that this documentary should be told cinematically, focusing on the protagonist’s instinctive creativity, focusing on interviews about what he did for Korean cinema, and recording his comfortable and simple image. I wanted to do it. Text, dialogue, and narrative are important in movies, but this documentary emphasized cinematic elements. In other words, temporality was emphasized through cross-editing between the past and present, and the scenes in various spaces and the spatial energy they create were structured to be well conveyed. “We worked hard to ensure that the music could bring out these temporal and spatial aspects, and in the end, we completed it with the hope that the audience would gain a warm feeling and good energy after watching this documentary film.”

I almost completely agree with this plot, but it goes without saying that it is up to you whether you agree or not.

A scene from the filming of director Yuri Lim’s movie ‘Echo’. /CJ Cultural Foundation

A scene from the filming of director Yuri Lim’s movie ‘Echo’. /CJ Cultural Foundation


So, how was “Echo” presented at the student short film competition session La Cinef?

The film by director Yuri Lim (26), a student at Korea National University of Arts, is a 2022 selection for ‘Story Up’, a support project for new short film directors of the CJ Cultural Foundation. Out of 2,263 films submitted from all over the world, it finally entered the top 18 after overcoming a competition of 126 to 1.

Set in the Joseon Dynasty, the heroine, who is being chased by a group of drunken young men, meets in the forbidden forest her older sister, who married the old woman from the village next door to her years ago, and her hidden truth is revealed.

What caught the author’s attention after encountering “Echo” with little prior information was, more than anything, its historical background.

Creating a period piece must have been a daunting task even for an established director, but since a college student took on the challenge, special attention could not be paid to it.

This means that a certain amount of orientalism and exoticism may have played a role in Khan’s choice this time. Even now, those two factors are the main mechanisms that are effectively operating when Asian films are discovered and recognized by the West.

It was probably supported by a budget of 27 million won, which is not a small amount for a short film directed while in school and is not a graduation work – it would not be difficult to guess that it was a considerable amount of private money – but I couldn’t help but be surprised by the high-quality production value.

However, the director is not concerned about the film’s identity as a period piece at various points, such as interpreting the performance of Jeong Eun-seon, who plays the main character Ok-yeon. It has a lot of modern feel.

Compared to the two female leads who exude professionalism, the fact that the young people’s acting exudes a childish amateurishness is highly likely to be intentional on the part of the director.

‘Echo’ still cut

‘Echo’ still cut


It implies and suggests that “Echo” was aimed at the current feminist orientation and goal. Could it be an intentional inconsistency or anachronism? Such a director’s choice will inevitably be linked to the film’s perfection, but it is an honest judgment that it may have been a critical reason why it did not rise to the top three awards.

It was also disappointing that it felt like the dramatic pace was too slow for a short film that lasted about 20 minutes.

It may have been the result of trying to focus on the psychology of the characters as much as the events of the film, but it did not go as far as leaving a strong impression due to the lack of impact that is usually expected of a short story. Nevertheless, I don’t think we can help but support the director’s unusual challenge and vision. (To be continued)



* Jeon Chan-il is ‘AsiaN’ pop culture columnist, film critic, author of ‘Bong Joon-ho, the director who became the genre’

Search in Site