London Korean Film Festival: from Alienoid to Broker here are the films not to miss

 (Anchor, Official Trailer, EONTALK)
(Anchor, Official Trailer, EONTALK)

London’s Korean Film Festival is just around the corner, which means that for two whole weeks Londoners will be able to watch some of the best films to come out of South Korea in cinemas across the city.

With more than 30 films packed into the festival – whether new indie classics, shorts, female-focused cinema, period drama or fantasy, there’s something in the programme for most audiences. Films run from old favourites such as Come Come Come Upward, to new classics such as The Anchor, to major blockbuster sequels like The Admiral: Roaring Currents.

The festival runs from November 3 to 17 at locations across London. Here’s our selection of the films and events not to miss, with a full schedule available here.

Opening Night: Alienoid + Q&A

A film that could best be described as a mix of Terminator, Transformers, Aliens and The Matrix, Alienoid follows three storylines which run simultaneously through the film – set in 1380 CE, 1381 CE and 2012 CE Robots have found a way to trap their prisoners inside human bodies, but portals keep opening into different dimensions, and some of the prisoners are able to escape. There is also a pair of sorcerers trying to find a magical blade.

If it all sounds complicated, that is because it is – but with acclaimed director Choi Dong-hoon (whose films, including The Thieves and Assassination, have been some of Korea’s biggest commercial hits) behind the camera, Alienoid is set to be an action-packed joy ride. The film stars Kim Tae-ri (The Handmaiden) and Ryu Jun-yeol (Believer).

The screening is followed by a Q&A with director Dong-hoon.

ICA, Thu 03 Nov, 6:30 pm

Come Come Come Upward + Q&A

Come Come Come Upward is a 1989 film from Im Kwon-taek, one of Korea’s most celebrated film directors. The film inspects spirituality, friendship and hardship as it follows the lives of two women who both have ties to a Buddhist temple. It won Best Film at Korea’s Grand Bell Awards and starred Kang Soo-yeon from Girls’ Night Out.

There will be an accompanying Q&A from Kim Dong-ho, founder of Busan International Film Festival (one of the most important film festivals in Asia) and Kim Hong-joon, director of the Korean Film Archive.

ICA, Sun 06 Nov, 2:30 pm

Women’s Voices Shorts x Seoul International Women’s Film Festival

Head over to Dalston to enjoy this special selection of shorts from the last Seoul International Women’s Film Festival, selected by the festival’s own programmer Hwang Miyojo.

The four films chosen include Dear Chaemin – a series of video letters sent during the pandemic from Bae Cyan, who is in the Hague, to her younger sibling in Seoul – and Special Scholarship, a story about two girls competing for a scholarship, one of whom seems to have more money than the other.

Rio Cinema, Sun 06 Nov, 3:00 pm

Celebrating Kang Soo-yeon (Special Focus Forum)

A special celebration evening for acclaimed actor Kang Soo-yeon, who died unexpectedly in May aged 55. Soo-yeon is often seen as Korea’s first international star – she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress win at the 44th Venice International Film Festival, the first Korean actor to gain such recognition in Europe. She starred in Come Come Come Upward, The Surrogate Woman and Girls’ Night Out – all films on this year’s festival line-up.

During the event, invited guests will discuss Soo-yeon’s career and legacy. There will then be a screening of episode one of the 1983 TV show High School Diary, which follows Hyeon-su (Soo-yeon) a student who arrives in Seoul to start high school. The show ended up being a massive hit, running for 150 episodes and catapulting the teenage actor into nationwide fame.

KCCUK, Mon 07 Nov, 6:30 pm

Broker + Q&A

Directed and written by Hirokazu Kore-eda, and starring the ever-wonderful Bae Doona (The Host) alongside Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Gang Dong-won (Peninsula) and Lee Ji-eun (also known as singer IU), Broker is about a debt-ridden Sang-hyun (Kang-ho) and his friend Dong-soo (Dong Won). They run a side business selling babies from the church’s baby hatch (where people can anonymously leave unwanted babies) on the adoption black market.

The story becomes an unconventional family drama when one mother (Ji-eun) comes back to pick up her baby and then decides to go on a trip with the two men to help find good adoptive parents for her child. Meanwhile, two police officers are on the trail of the trio, trying to find the baby thieves once and for all.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Darcy Paquet, who is both a film critic and the English-language subtitle translator of some of Korea’s best-known films including Broker (2022), Parasite (2019) and The Handmaiden (2016).

Picturehouse Central, Thu 10 Nov, 8:30 pm

Anchor + Q&A

Jeong Ji-yeon directs this psychological thriller about TV news anchor Jung Se-ra (Chun Woo-hee) who receives a mysterious call from a woman who says she is the victim of a home invasion and will be killed if Se-ra doesn’t investigate the case herself.

The call causes Se-ra’s life – which looks perfect from the outside but which is creaking with personal and professional pressure – to unravel. The audience is taken along for the ride as Ji-yeon reveals how the women are connected.

The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Ji-yeon.

Picturehouse Central, Tue 15 Nov, 6:30 pm

Shorts x Jeonju International Film Festival – Part 1

The JEONJU International Film Festival is one of Korea’s major arts festivals, and it runs a very competitive short film category. At this event, across two sittings, audiences get the opportunity to see some of Korea’s best up-and-coming talent.

There are four films that have been selected for the screening, including In the Dry Stream, about the relationship between a boy called Yu-bin and his friend Geon, who play together in the forest, which faces the threat of construction, and Transit, about the reaction of Miho’s colleagues after she returns to her job as a gaffer on a film set following gender-affirming surgery.

Garden Cinema (Holborn), Fri 11 Nov, 6:00 pm

Shorts x Jeonju International Film Festival – Part 2

The same evening, audiences can enjoy a second instalment of the JEONJU International Film Festival short selections. There are four more films on the roster, which include Layers of Summer, about two ex-lovers who run into each other and who spend an afternoon reminiscing about their relationship and the possibility of getting back together, and 29th Breath, about an actress who keeps being cast as a zombie.

Garden Cinema (Holborn), Fri 11 Nov, 8:30 pm

Networking drinks for Gyeong-ah’s Daughter + Q&A

Caregiver Gyeong-ah (Kim Jung-Young) misses her teacher daughter Yeon-Soo (Ha Yoon-Kyung), who she hardly gets to see since she moved out. But one-day Gyeong-ah receives a video of her daughter naked –the video has been leaked by Yeon-Soo’s ex to all of her family and acquaintances. Now Yeon-Soo and Gyeong-ah’s relationship is put to the test as the scandal starts to consume Yeon-Soo.

At this special event, the audience is invited for a more informal meet-and-drinks with the film’s director Kim Jung-eun before the screening. After, there will also be a Q&A session where audiences can discuss Jung-eun’s debut feature.

Cine Lumiere, Sun 13 Nov, 7:00 pm

Closing Night: Hansan: Rising Dragon + Q&A

The second instalment of Kim Han-min’s historical action trilogy is about the battles led by Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin in the late 14th century. Han-min’s first film, The Admiral: Roaring Currents, was a major hit, becoming the highest-grossing film of all time in South Korea – a title it’s managed to keep over the eight years since its release.

The second film focuses on the Battle of Hansan, which took place five years before the events of the first film. Admiral Yi and his relatively small fleet take on a massive Japanese armada. Park Hae-il, who also stars in this year’s Decision to Leave from director Park Chan-wook, replaces Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik as Admiral Yi.

As part of the closing night screening, the film will be followed by a Q&A with director Kim Han-min.

Regent St Cinema, Thu 17 Nov, 7:00 pm

The London Korean Film Festival runs from November 3-17 at various locations around London. Further details and a full programme can be found here.