Monday, September 19, 2011

A secret reunion



Tonight I accepted the invitation of South Korean Ambassador Hye Min Lee to attend the opening night of "7 Different Colors of Love," the 2011 Korean Film Festival that will run in SM Cinemas in Manila and Cebu from Sep 20 to Oct 2.

I haven't been to a proper cinema in ages, and my friends know that the only time I've been able to sit through an entire film without interruption in recent years has been inside the airplane, where I've been a captive audience. But in Manila, I never have time to actually go to the cinema or even to sit through more than 30 minutes of a DVD at home.

But the opening night of a Korean film festival sounded too interesting to resist, and so I headed to the Mall of Asia to join the Ambassador and his other guests. The film chosen for tonight's opening was "Secret Reunion," a poignant story of a police detective from South Korea and a spy from North Korea who start out as enemies and end up as true friends.

It began in pretty much a James Bond style, with lots of gory action including cars smashing through fences and people being killed in cold blood. This is quite a favorite style for movies in Northeast Asia, by the way, where popular films are usually lost of violent action or nostalgically sentimental. Interestingly, "Secret Reunion" was a little bit of both.

BLACKBERRY TO THE RESCUE

The action scenes, however, were a bit too much for me occasionally -- so that there were not a few times that I actually had to take my Blackberry out of my bag and answer some texts and emails just to get my mind and my eyes off the screen.

But when it wasn't about gruesome killings and near-death experiences, the movie was incredibly humane. Here were two people on opposite sides of the fence and in the most callous occupations imaginable -- one was a detective in charge of capturing assassins and the other was a spy/ assassin -- and both were trained to cut out all humanity from their work because having humanity was folly. But although they were the best in their respective fields, they were also thrown out by their own organizations -- two outsiders who were better off sticking together to survive in a world without the backing of their organizations.

UNEXPECTED HUMANITY

But these two perfectly cold people were unwittingly humane to others and to each other. They also realize their own humanity through their interactions with each other. One of the most poignant scenes comes at the last, when the assassin pretends to kill the detective as he is put to a loyalty test by one of his comrades.

Even we in the audience thought the detective had died. But with every violent stab with a knife, it turned out that the knife had been pointed the other way and the assassin had been stabbing his own hand instead.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable movie, and one that gave me more insights into the complexities of Korean culture, especially amidst the great divide within such small distance -- and consequently also the great sorrow -- between the North and the South.

The film festival starts tomorrow. Go see some interesting movies here if you can. There are screenings at SM North EDSA, SM Mall of Asia and SM Cebu from September 20 to October 2, and admission is free.

The films to be shown include:

Secret Reunion
Hwang Jin Yi
For Eternal Hearts
Christmas in August
Speedy Scandal
Happy Life
My Dear Enemy
* * *

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