The Seoul International Women’s Film Festival in Korea is known to have a critical stance and an eye for creative, intellectually honest films. So, I was quite excited to hear that my film ‘Ships Outside My Window’ had been selected to be part of the Asian Shorts Competition. The festival offered me accomodation for a few nights if I could fly to Korea. This is when I reached out to AG Kurzfilm. The process was fairly simple and very time efficient. Within a week I knew that I was going to have a sponsored trip to the other side of the planet.
I arrived at Seoul Incheon International Airport after a 16 hour journey to find a volunteer from the festival waiting for me. At the hotel, I was greeted by the festival guest coordinator that I had been in contact with. He presented me with a gift from the Korean Literature society, which was of course a book that was an English translated version of Korean Poetry. The opening ceremony was at the Oil Tank Culture Park, it began with an informal photo session on the ‘purple’ carpet. I was paired with a filmmaker from the US to pose for the photographs. A Korean fusion jazz band’s lilting music was followed by the official opening ceremony. Agnes Varda, who was supposed to be attending the festival was unable to come on account of her 90th birthday celebrations. But she did send a video message with her cat Nini, which flowed naturally to her opening film ‘Faces, Places’. Dinner was an assortment of Korean salads and other interesting delicacies.
The festival screenings take place at a large Multiplex with 8 screens. In true Korean style, everything was well ordered, organized and punctual. All Q & A sessions are in Korean, but an English translator is always present. Outside the venue, there was always some kind of cultural event organized as part of the festival. There were stalls that sold books, feminist stickers and small souvenirs. There were musical sessions or talks around women’s issues. In general, there was an air of excitement that pulled in quite a crowd. Almost always, all films had a packed hall and a very receptive audience.
My film was screened along with 4 other short films on two different days. The Q & A session after, gave us the chance to talk about our intentions and processes with our films. I was grateful for a few people who came to me after the screening to talk to me about how the film had touched them. A networking dinner was a good place to meet and talk to more filmmakers, curators and producers.
The SIWFF’s conscious and academically aware curation of films were impressive and fit with their motto of ‘Seeing the world through women’s eyes’. I spent a lot of time watching films. It was also an educational experience to watch films and interact on a personal level with their directors. I am now inspired to write fiction scripts again (at some point) although I mainly work with documentary films. Being at a festival with your film, gives you an immediate platform to interact with academics, curators and producers in an informal way, taking the pressure off of networking scenarios. I am looking forward to develop many of the friendships I made in Seoul.
I did manage to go around Seoul in spite of the busy schedule of the festival - Myeongdong market is a good place to buy some funky, unique socks from street shops, Tongin market is an old school market with a large selection of very delicious street food, Gyeonbokgung Palace is very impressive, its museum, which is free, provides a good overview into the history of the Joseon dynasty. Google maps is almost non functional though, so Naver maps is recommended by the locals. Seoul is quite easy to travel in, because of the well connected Subway. I would recommend buying a T-money card, which you can get at any of the 7-11, or GS 25 convenience stores and is very easy to recharge with one of the machines at the stations. At most places, there is some kind of wifi available - it may not work everytime but it works for getting basic navigation info onto your smartphone.
The closing ceremony held in one of the movie halls of the theater had a live quartet that accompanied the Awards presentations, after which we were invited to a traditional Korean barbeque. A bunch of us, eventually ended up at the hotel to toast the festival, exchange contacts and say our final goodbyes. I came back to Köln with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and healthy view of competition.