Jeon Hye-jung – who was once a lecturer at a prestigious university in Korea with a background in performing arts – left South Korea many years ago and settled in London. At the beginning of her UK ‘adventure’, she took a position at London Korean Cultural Centre UK, heading government projects and festivals to promote Korean culture to the London public. With a great passion for film and the arts, she encouraged people to take free Korean language classes and founded the London Korean Film Festival. Thanks to her determination, she founded yet another film festival after leaving the Korean Cultural Centre: London East Asia Film Festival, a non-profit arts organisation which “aims to champion the growing collaboration in East Asia film-making with philosophy that marks a shift in the cinematic landscape of East Asia.” London East Asia Film Festival will celebrate its 2nd year this year; in addition to engaging and thrilling films, Jeon Hye-jung will also introduce leading East Asian actors and directors to the UK audience. Without a doubt, the 2017 LEAFF edition will be a very exciting event. We talked to the festival director about her work and her vision for this year’s festival.
You have just announced the 2nd London East Asia Film Festival programme; LEAFF’s successful previous edition has led to its second year, and the festival is getting more and more attention. How did you manage to achieve such a big success in such a short period of time?
I am not sure if LEAFF has achieved a big success, but I do feel we are getting more attention this year. Our programmers and advisers are experts in East Asian cinema, who understand the London audience. I believe our team is the reason behind our strong line-up of films; but fundamentally, our festival would not be possible without the audience. There have been people wanting to watch a more diverse range of East Asian films in cinemas across London. That is why LEAFF was able to grow in such a short period of time; the big success will hopefully follow in the future. This year, the audience will have a chance to see various films from many Asian countries.
Could you tell me more about your selection of films for this year’s LEAFF programme?
As I spoke with my programmers and advisers, I realised there is lots to be celebrated this year. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China and I wanted to take that opportunity to celebrate the last 20 years of Hong Kong cinema and how that has shaped the film industry in Hong Kong and the contemporary filmmakers. I also learned that this year marks the 100th anniversary of Japanese animation. Together with our programmer Jasper Sharp, LEAFF wanted to look back at the amazing films that had shaped generations in Japan – and also abroad. Our theme for 2017 is the “perception of time”, shown through cinema. Our two strands dedicated to Hong Kong cinema and Japanese animations will show older films, but we also included period dramas, films about family ties, the future and the past. We tried to select films by well-known directors as well as by new, emerging talents from East Asia, to tell their stories of “time”.
Jeon Hye-jung at the last year’s LEAFF festival
What or who prompted you to organise such a big festival yet again?
The audience. The scale is not hugely important, but the audience is the main reason for organising LEAFF. Without the audience, the Festival would not exist.
What is your vision for this year’s festival?
LEAFF aims to bring an exciting programme of films and events, to allow those who may not be so familiar with the region to bridge the gap between the East and the West. Through the screenings, Q&As, panel discussions, the film music concert and the masterclasses, I sincerely hope to reach out and inspire more of the London and the UK audience.
So what, in your opinion, will be the highlights of the 2nd London East Asia Film Festival?
There are strands that are returning from the 1st Edition, such as Stories of Women and the Competition for new, emerging directors from East Asia who have made three features or less. We are co-programming with Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival to show thrillers and fantasy genre films – that is certainly a strand to look forward to. We are proud to present the international premiere of The Fortress, directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, as our opening film. Actor Lee Byung-hun will return to London after five years to attend our red carpet gala with actor Park Hae-il, who will visit London for the first time.
What would you like for the audience to remember after attending the 2nd London East Asia Film Festival?
I would like the audience that is familiar with East Asian cinema to continue watching the films from the region throughout the year, and for them to just remember the festival as a place where they can enjoy films with other people who share similar interests. I hope new audience will find the festival to be a platform that helps not only to gain insight into East Asian cinema, but also an insight into East Asian cultures.
Jeon Hye-jung at the last year’s LEAFF during the Awards Ceremony
You can find more information about the festival’s schedule and tickets on the official website.
Written and interview by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
Featured Photo © Courtesy of the photograher
All other photos © LEAFF