The 2020 Korea Film Fest: the Show Goes On


A scene from ‘Intimate Strangers’

Originally scheduled during the months of lockdown, the annual Korea Film Fest in Florence has resurfaced with an outstanding itinerary for the last week in September that aims to reimagine how we experience cinema with COVID-19 as part of our daily lives.  Put on by the Taegukgi Toscana Korea Association and directed by Riccardo Gelli, the festival will take place in a hybrid fashion accessible both in person at Florence’s La Compagnia theater (via Cavour 50/r) and virtually via Più Compagnia from September 23 to September 30.

The event will celebrate contemporary big-name box office titles, independent Korean films created by young and talented directors, and short films originally presented at film festivals in Korea. In total, there will be 60 titles ranging in genre from drama, fiction, action, horror, and documentary.

Each year recognizes a cinematic genius from the South Korean film industry, and 2020 is no different — at least in this respect. The eighteenth edition of the series will welcome South Korean actor Cho Jin-Woong, who has been in over 50 movies and will showcase a select five films of various genres all starring the actor. Following the opening ceremony on Wednesday, September 23 at 8:30 pm is Jin-Woong’s most recent success Black Money (2019) directed by Ching Ji-Young, who will be providing commentary on major themes in the film after the screening.

If you enjoy Jin-Woong’s acting, make sure to catch the screening of Man of Will (2017)  on September 25 at 9 pm; afterwards, meet the actor himself in a video conference.  Man of Will is a period piece that takes place in the 1890s and follows a young man after he is sentenced to prison where he helps wrongfully convicted prisoners write letters to clear their charges. Jin-Woong also stars in the film Man of Man (2019), which based on a friendship between two very different men, and is on the program for Sunday, September 26 at 3 pm. Intimate Strangers (2018) directed by J.Q. Lee is another favorite and will be showcased later in the evening at 9 pm. The film follows Jin-Woong’s character and his wife who invite their friends over for a dinner party where they end up playing a game that brings to surface hidden truths.

For those who are fans of thrillers, keep an eye out for Believer (2018) directed by Lee Hae-Young and A Hard Day (2014) directed by Kim Seong-hun on Tuesday, September 29 at 3 pm and 6  pm, respectively. The former zooms in on a homicide detective after he accidentally runs over a man whose body shows up days later with gunshot wounds, while the second tells the story of a police detective investigating Asia’s largest drug cartel.

In addition to offerings that star Jin-Woong, there will also be a plethora of contemporary Korean films including Lee Sang-guen’s 2019 action comedy Exit, playing at 9 pm on Thursday, September 24. The story follows a grown man and his old crush as they battle against a mysterious gas threatening to take over Seoul––a relatable dystopian sentiment during a pandemic. Days later on September 26 at 8:30 will bring 1987: When the Day Comes directed by Jang Joon-hwan. The movie, which follows a prosecutor determined to bring justice to the death of a student which the oppressive military regime is trying to cover up, will be one of several documentaries showcased at the festival. The festival will also organize a special screening of the period film The Royal Tailor (2014) on Monday, September 28 at 11  am available for students and put on by Cinema La Compagnia.

The festival carries even more meaning this year after Parasite by South Korean director Bong Joon-oh won Best Picture, the first film not in English to do so, at the 2020 Oscar ceremony. In honor of this profound feat, the Florence Korea Film Fest will screen the film on the last day of the festival at 6 pm. Joon-oh will also deliver a video message to the audience following the film, speaking on the significance of this award and the black comedy which follows two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds and what ensues when their paths cross. This showing is particularly meaningful as it will be one of the last times Parasite will be presented on a large screen. Wednesday, September 30 will be the closing ceremony and will include the announcement of the winner of the Asiana Airlines Audience Award at 8 pm.

Audience members will also be able to participate in a K-virtual Reality Experience. Those interested will be able to choose from 12 films of different genres and experience cinema from the inside. Due to the current health emergency, the program will only be available online via the Più Compagnia platform, but the hope is that the 19th edition of the Korea Film Fest will be able to further explore this avant-garde cinematography.

For more information on the Florence Korea Film Fest, call +39 055 5048516 or email You can view the full itinerary and buy tickets on the koreafilmfest website. Tickets range to €4 to €6 depending on an afternoon or evening screening; there are also three-day film day passes and a full festival subscription available.  (elizabeth berry)