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Long before Bong Joon Ho, Hong Sangsoo, and Park Chan-wook catapulted South Korean cinema onto the world stage, the foundation of their country’s film industry formed in the aftermath of the Korean War.

The period kickstarted a wealth of eclectic and innovative filmmaking that culminated in the 1960s. Closer inspection of this decade, now widely considered Korea’s premier film renaissance, reveals the arrival of seminal works from auteurs such as Kim Ki-young, Shin Sang-ok, Yu Hyun-mok, Kim Soo-yong, and Lee Man-hee, alongside a meteoric rise and reinvention of genres—from melodramas and period epics to action, horror, war, and giant monster movies. 

Although the military dictatorship still imposed tight constraints throughout this era, what these filmmakers managed to accomplish under such conditions, in arthouse fare and unabashed popular entertainment alike, continues to reverberate and inspire to this day. This September, Film at Lincoln Center and Subway Cinema are thrilled to showcase this rich period and its remarkably varied films, encapsulating a generation’s collective endeavor to define a national cinema.

Highlights include Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid, one of the unquestionable masterpieces of Korean cinema which tells the story of a bizarre ménage à trois formed between a music teacher, his wife, and their increasingly assertive housemaid; Kang Dae-jin’s The Coachman, the first Korean film to win a major overseas award, the Silver Bear (Special Jury Prize) at the 1961 Berlin Film Festival; Hong Eun-won’s A Woman Judge, the second Korean feature to be directed by a woman and considered lost for more than 50 years until a 16mm print was recovered in 2015; Special Agent X-7, a highly entertaining and beautifully shot color spy film from Chung Chang-wha (The King Boxer), which was also long considered lost until the 35mm print was discovered in 2013; Kim Kee-duk’s The Great Monster Yonggary aka Yongary, Monster from the Deep, Korea’s first monster movie and an entertaining take on Godzilla and Gamera “that’s long on rampages and short on sensible behavior”; Shin Dong-hun’s The Story of Hong Gil-dong, South Korea’s very first animated feature film which follows the iconic Robin Hood-like figure Hong Gil-dong and was considered lost until 2008; and A Day Off, Lee Man-hee’s spare, lyrical film concerning the strained relationship of a poor young couple, belatedly recognized as one of the decade’s masterpieces after censors refused to allow its release.

Organized by Young Jin Eric Choi, Goran Topalovic, and Tyler Wilson. Co-presented by Subway Cinema in collaboration with the Korean Cultural Center New York and the Korean Film Archive.




Choi Jee-Woong and PROPAGANDA; Darcy Paquet; Kyungmi Kim; Taekyung Goh; SRS Cinema; Chae Yunsun; Kwon Munkyu; Sung Yeon Tae; Shon Kisoo; Roh Changwoo

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