Friday, November 4, 2011

October is for Festivals

Hi all,

Heo, the witch.

    While Heo (above) may be one of the few people in Korea who actually celebrates Halloween, October is definitely not lacking holidays and festivities in Korea.  October is famous for having multiple festivals.  Luckily, I have been able to check out several of these.  Early in the month, I went to the Simcheongga festival with one of the teachers at my school.  Simcheongga is a story about a girl, named Sim Cheong, who works hard to help her father overcome his blindness.  After going through several obstaclest (going to the Dragon of the Sea, the emperor, etc.) Sim Cheong is able to help her father.  The festival did not have a whole lot to do with the story, but there were plenty of cool performances and activities.  I watched traditional drumming and dancing.  Aditionally, a famous singer was at the festival who sung a famous song about the Sim Cheong story.
    About a week an a half later, I had several days off from school so, I headed to Daegu and Busan.  Daegu is one of the largest cities in Korea.  I visited a museum about Daegu's history and learned quite a bit about the city and its rapid development.  It is an important industrial area for Korea (Samsung was originally based in Daegu).  Recently, it is also a leader in fashion in Korea.  While in Daegu, Kyle, another ETA in Naju, and I met up with friends and explored many of Daegu's famous outdoor markets. The most famous in Yangnyongsi, which is known for herbs and medicine.  Seomun Market, by far the largest in the city, was mostly filled with fabrics and clothes.  This market consisted of vendors outside and underground.
   Following Daegu, the Naju ETAs and I met with about 30 other ETAs in Busan for the Busan International Film Festival.  BIFF is the largest film festival in Asia and it continues to grow.  This year was the first year in which a good portion of the event was housed in a brand new movie theater (this building was massive).  Many of the other films were screened at the Shinsegae Department Store across the street.  Shinsegae is comparable to Macys in Korea.  It is in just about every city in Korea.  The store in Busan is the largest department store in Korea and the world.  In addition to having a movie theater, the department store also has an ice-skating rink, a museum, and a massive spa/sauna.

Shinsegae Department Store

    While I loved Busan and thought it was beautiful, I did not really see much of the city because I was busy watching movies.  When I first got there, my friend, Aaron, and I went to watch several Korean short films.  While the production quality was high, the actual content of the movies was not so great.  The best film, Modern Family, was about a Korean family who, through a strange turn of events, end up killing their neighbors in order to protect their son (I shouldn't have bought popcorn).  I also saw and old Korean film called Buy My Fist.  It was a melodramatic film about a boxer who cares for the family of one of his opponents after he kills him.  The movie was a bit over the top, but it was interesting to see a very old Korean film that was extremely popular when it was released.
Busan Cinema Center
Aaron and Di-Hoa relaxing outside the Busan Cinema Center
Another view of the Busan Cinema Center
    My friends and I had bought tickets to see Marjan Satrapi's new film (she directed Persepolis).  Unfortunately, the screening was canceled.  Despite the disappointed, we ended up having a great time exploring Haeundae Beach, the most famous beach in Busan.  At the beach, several famous Korean directors were discussing their works.  I listened an then walked around and soaked up the atmosphere (reminded me a lot of Venice Beach).  Following the short break from the main center of the festival, we headed back in order to watch a concert by the Busan World Philharmonic Orchestra.  This performance was held in the outdoor section of the new movie theater.  Fireworks were launched in the middle and at the end.  Following the wonderful show, a French Ambassador came out to introduce the new film The Artist.  The Artist was a surprise hit at Cannes.  The film is about a silent film star in Hollywood who struggles once sound is introduced.  While the movie was charming, I think it should have been a comedy instead of a drama.  At the same time, it was great to sit outside and watch it on a massive screen.

Panel discussion on the beach with Korean directors
Haeundae Beach

Busan New World Orchestra
    While in Naju, I also had the chance to check out some festivals close to home.  Last Friday, I went to the Gwangju International Film Festival.  The festival has been going on for 11 years.  I saw a wonderful French film called Tomboy.  This movie was quite popular at Sundance.  It is about a young French girl who moves to a new town with her family and tells the kids in the neighborhood that she is a boy.  Lots of ambiguity and an interesting ending within this movie.

I am inside a presentation at the Biennale
     I also had a chance to check out the Gwangju Design Biennale.  This event was a special exhibit that was dedicated to design within Korea and the rest of the world.  "Design"was interpreted quite loosely.  It was applied to architecture, the human body, cars, and politics.  Exhibits focused on everything from the physique of atheletes and womens' headdresses to the rebuilding of Japan and sustainability.  I had a blast walking around and looking at al the ideas that were on display.   Afterwards, I certainly had a lot to ponder.

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