Caught two features--Double Agent and Spring In My Hometown--at the 4th San Francisco Korean American Film Festival (SFKAFF), co-presented by KIMA, San Francisco State University and Stanford University. First, I have to say how great it was to see a movie in the Presidio again!! It's been years. Over a decade.
Watching both of these films made me aware how painfully uninformed I am about the Korean war and Korean history. I guess one could blithely dismiss such ignorance, wondering why one should even have to know, but, due to the American presence in Korea and its effect (masterfully portrayed in Spring In My Hometown), I welcome the opportunity to learn more.
Spring In My Hometown was beautiful, sad, and revelatory. Darcy Paquet's commentary at his Korean film site deepened my insight.
Lee Kwangmo's 1998 autobiographical piece won several awards when it first traversed the festival circuit. Told from the point of view of two childhood friends, and filmed in long shots that capture the Korean landscape and Korean village life, with silent intertitles that catalog developments in the Korean war, I was genuinely moved by this story of occupation by American soldiers and their devastating effect on the locals through a sequence of unfortunate consequences. The flame of a cigarette lighter becomes a meager beacon of hope and perseverance.
Double Agent reminded me of the value of genre, how the structure of a genre can carry a film even if the details confuse. I can't say I knew what was going on half the time in this movie, but, towards the end, I was on the edge of my seat. A great espionage story!! And Ko So-young is breathtakingly beautiful!! Kyu Hyun Kim's synopsis for the Korean film page pretty much encapsulated my reactions to this film. "Whatever happened to movies like The Spy Who Came In From The Cold or The Third Man? Simple: they moved to Korea." I'm glad I got a chance to see this.
My only complaint would be the technical difficulties that caused near to a 40-minute delay. Expecting a film to start at 9:15PM and having it pushed to 10:00PM is problematic. But being that the festival is entirely run by student volunteers, I allowed leeway.