Thursday, March 8, 2012

Promotional Weaknesses of Korean Movies (Abroad)

Korean Movies Abroad

No one can deny it, that Korean movies are very well made. They have good budgets that are used well, most of the time. Even with small budgets, Koreans can create very nice things. Because when the money is less, you become more creative.

Korean movies are also well promoted, if they are guaranteed successes. But there are also some issues that should really be handled. Some issues of promotion, from what is chosen to be promoted to how things are promoted, need to be addressed, because they give the wrong kind of image about Korean cinema and sometimes even create completely false expectations for a work.

These issues can be found both on the local promotion and international promotion sides. I will talk a bit about a couple of them that I personally find badly done or even immoral, in some cases. In one particular type of case, in fact.

I will split this in to two articles and start with the international side (although some of the domestic issues affect this too) and less heavy of the offenders in this one. Korean cinema is not as widespread as Hollywood. It doesn't really have a choice, as Hollywood has made it its business to keep competition out of its global dominance.

One problem here is, that a lot of the people who are interested in foreign cinema are also those who reject anything mainstream and Hollywood, but are sometimes a bit too fixated on arthouse. They see Asian cinema as "alternative" and think it's filled with movies that don't give a damn about money and are just interested in deep philosophical and meaningful explorations of the human psyche, or whatever some of them find "art", simply because it's ambiguous or overly self-absorbed.

I'm sure some art bigots love this, but I just see a nutjob torturing unfortunate cats

I am not saying all contemporary art is bad, but what I am saying is that such people tend to promote and give good scores to movies that contain all the elements they somehow consider "better than mainstream". Mainly, confusing plots, extreme cinematography, any huge amount of violence and of course, a lot of sex. As a result, a lot of people who only have the aforementioned audience's opinions to go by, see Asian movies as weird, dark glorified porn films with too much violence and depressing themes.

I recently had a discussion with a fellow student, during a Script Writing Workshop course. I have been showing Korean movies at my school, to a small group of people who liked the idea and wanted to know Korean cinema. I told her she could join and she said something which sounds a lot like what I felt originally as well. She told me she hasn't watched much Asian cinema, but any movies that she found out about and watched were riddled with raw sex scenes that served no purpose, depressing and weird themes that did not make sense or move her.

Old Boy
Movies like "Old Boy", one of the most overhyped films I've seen, play a big part in this

The sad thing is, that because it's these movies that often make it to festivals and "get around", a lot of people do not know that Korea has many mainstream films that would appeal to mainstream audiences or even those who are in the middle between arthouse buffs and the masses. Those who appreciate uniqueness, but don't only chase after the most peculiar thing just for the sake of resisting mainstream.

Because Korea does care about the money and fame, as all such industries do, it also tends to promote such films more than some other mainstream ones. Or there is also the flipside of promoting a big budget mainstream one that is hyped for more than it's worth, as is the case with movies like "Haeundae", I feel. The movie was frankly awful and still, I can find its DVD even in Finnish stores.

The Finnish DVD cover for "Haeundae"

Korea has a lot to offer to audiences worldwide, but the availability of their movies, the regional issues, the sheer amount of money, time and effort a foreign viewer would need to gain access to these films, along with the fact that they don't always promote movies that create an accurate image about the whole industry, is keeping Korean movies from shining for what they're worth.

What's worse is that Korea does not seem to care about the large fandom. If it's not a few countries in Asia, the US and "Europe", which to them means UK, France and Germany, they don't even show their films in festivals, let alone promote them further and make them available. Budget issues? Of course. That too. Not everyone can spend as much as Hollywood (although if people just "used the tech", as I say in my article linked above, that wouldn't be an issue). But what I am saying is, spend it wisely. Not on "Haeundae" and arthouse only.

Although the recent terror people are going through with SOPA, ACTA and the like might make non-Hollywood films unreachable, the huge fandom of them can only hope these agreements will not pass. We also hope that Korean cinema will keep being as good as it is, keep holding on to quality and originality and that Korea will put more effort in international promotion and reaching out to people. We're here and we're always ready to be amazed.

Pictures found through Google Image Search. I made the first one using some.

The Finnish cover for "Haeundae" is taken from the site I linked,

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