‘STANDING ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKIN IN’: MY PEEK INTO KOREAN CINEMA DOWN UNDER

“Some like it hot…some like it funny…some like it sweet…some like it spicy”. In case you are a little confused this is the promotional tagline from KOFFIA 2014. What is KOFFIA 2014 you ask? Why it’s the annual Korean Film Festival in Australia – a 9 day-long celebration of the best of Korean cinema. So I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

My experiences of KOFFIA were mediated through YouTube and the official website. Nonetheless, the use of these digital platforms shaped a space where the voices of Korean-Australians and Korean cinema could be heard. I quickly realised that the site was dominated by the event’s promotional video series – comical skits created and acted out by Korean-Australians with the tagline ‘need something spicy? KOFFIA is the answer’. My immediate thoughts when watching these videos (aside from the fact that they were quite funny) was that the producers had taken a leaf out of MyChonny’s book. It definitely had this MyChonny flavour – self-deprecating, comical reflection of the challenges of negotiating an Asian identity in Australian mainstream culture.

 

 

Aside from this skit series, the YouTube channel had posted a highlights reel of the festival with montaged video footage featuring the hundreds of fans who turned out for the event. I was surprised not only how successful this event was in carving out its own niche market, but also the ‘voices’ that were being heard. It wasn’t just Korean-Australians easily identifiable with their Aussie accents, but people from the broader Australian community were getting involved. During this short clip it was evident that there were many people from different countries (which I identified through their accents as they were talking in front of the camera).

 

Besides the fact that KOFFIA and other similar events “offer passionate fans of cinema new opportunities to discover the diversity of film from the region” (Gray, R 2012, p108), the festival is much more than that. It is a crossroads, where gender, age, culture and genre intersect. This ‘intersection’ can also be seen in curated online spaces which “has provided ample material to examine how cyberspace and other forms of new media assist the formation of diasporic subjectivities” (Suna, W et.al 2011, p520). Let’s take the ‘official’ film trailers on KOFFIA’s YouTube channel. I came to an interesting conclusion that – genre became very muddy. When viewing the trailer for the movie ‘Cold Eyes’, I initially thought it was categorised as a spy thriller. After a search on Google, Cold Eyes was considered to be a ‘crime’ movie, despite the fact that there was no obvious visual indicators such uniformed cops, detectives, police cars etc. commonly associated with this genre. In a sense, YouTube was a site of genre traversing one another which begs the question; do the corporate creators intentionally frame the movie in such a way as to influence how diasporic fan communities perceive genre?

 

 

It is also important to note that KOFFIA’s online presence also saw a complex cultural fusion of sorts – where elements of Korean, ‘mainstream Australia’ even ‘American’ culture merge. This was most evident in the comical skit series where ‘selfies’and ‘Mr No-work’ resonated with me because of their Australian as well as transcultural qualities. While, KOFFIA does allow individual voices to be heard, it acts as a collective voice for the Korean-Australian community raising concerns over who is and isn’t heard? Furthermore, there is an overriding corporate presence with companies like Samsung primary sponsors of the event. We must ask ourselves; does advertising play a role in the longevity of online diasporic communities? KOFFIA and more broadly, MyChonny and Natalie Tran have to do deals with the devil in order to maintain their presence online. Often these online communities play host to companies wishing to advertise on their sites. Does this reduce their credibility as an ‘authentic’ voice for diasporic Asian communities all around Australia?

 

Gray, R 2012, ‘Festivals traverse the region’, Metro Magazine, issue 174, pp108-109.

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Cold Eyes’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 23 July, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zhVUJ-F6ck

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Festival Highlights KOFFIA in Sydney’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 21 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrLhoIChfdc

KOFFIA 2014, ‘Selfie Girlfriend Bonus Cut’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 8 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0v0HtihqDk

Suna, W; Yueb, A; Sinclairb, J; Gaob, J 2011, ‘Diasporic Chinese media in Australia: A post-2008 overview’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, volume 25, issue 4, pp515-527.

 

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7 comments

  1. “Do the corporate creators intentionally frame the movie in such a way as to influence how diasporic fan communities perceive genre?” I really liked this idea and i wonder if they frame movies differently in different cultures so it will appeal to them. Like if a movie targeted to America was then advertised the same in Japan, would it have the same success as if it were to be changed to be more culturally attune?
    I also find it interesting that KOFFIA’S online presence saw a fusion of cultures and i think the use of technology definitely helps these programs reach out to various cultures.
    Also, the role of advertising is tricky because it makes you wonder how much influence it has over the program and if it makes it less credible.

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  2. Hey Caitlin,
    Wow, great post! I really like the example you’ve used of the KOFFIA example as a way to demonstrate the influence that aspects of Korean culture can have on Australia – as well as a terrific example of Asian diaspora coming together in an Australian setting.
    It was very interesting to read as I had never heard of the KOFFIA festival before this, and I decided to check it out… It’s actually such a big event, and such a great way to promote media coming from Korea!
    In terms of their online presence, you’ve raised some really good points about negative implications they can have… I definitely agree with what you say about the effects that media conglomerate sponsors such as Samsung can have on the information produced by small-scale authors or individuals who may be involved in the festival. Nevertheless, still an awesome showcase of a variety of creative media texts coming from Korea!
    -Keely

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  3. “Do the corporate creators intentionally frame the movie in such a way as to influence how diasporic fan communities perceive genre?” It’ s actually interesting you raise this question, because the whole concept of genre is actually just a marketing term. The reason genre was created was so things could be classified and sold to a specific audience, it’s really quite a limiting idea. So the way these films are framed in the Western world would often be as ‘foriegn films’ without further clasification, whilst in its home country they would be classified into different genres, and then again a different genres in another country to appeal to thier markets.
    Really interesting post, and informative because I had no idea KOFFIA festival existed! I might just check it out now 🙂

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  4. You likened some of the KOFFIA films to MyChonny, aside from the points you made an argument could be made that the clips don’t negotiate Asian culture in Australia, rather they just reflect struggles and every day lives of young people. However due to the similarities you mentioned it seems that it could be an Asian influence in Australian culture.

    You raise an interesting point in that the KOFFIA is a culmination of the Korean communities’ stories waiting to be told rather than to story of an individual.

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  5. I’ve never heard of KOFFIA before, so I’m glad I can across this! It sad how so often we don’t hear about cultural/film festival in our own country because news and media outlets don’t pay them enough attention or don’t believe that ‘mainstream’ Aussie audiences would be interested in cross cultural or foreign film particularly film. I realise that advertising, marketing and target audience play a huge role in the shaping of content and the classification of such for not just Festival and film but for almost all content produced ever. Perhaps this is why the KOFFIA YouTube channel’s clips drew upon elements of MyChonny, as they felt that his video content resonated with young Korean-Australians and other Australians of Asian descent, who appear to be a prime target audience for the festival. Awesome post! 🙂

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  6. It is interesting to see the Korean investment in the film festival, looking through the sponsors it is clear that there is a vested international Korean interest in the festival. I wonder if the same parallels can be drawn with a diasporic Japanese Film Festival given their record of a disinterest in maintaining an international interest in their products. Do you know if the festival holds an important place, like part of a festival circuit? What is the selection criteria? I feel like Kristy pointed out key elements of the criteria, I wonder if there is any boycotting as a result of this? Flicking quickly through the titles it seems that these films came out last year, are there reasons for this as opposed to showing titles from this year? Sorry for all the questions, but they are a great mirroring of the festival as a great forum of interaction to investigate further.

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  7. Thanks for all your feedback. You have posed some great questions which I will hopefully be able to answer in the final assignment so thanks for your ideas, in particular James’ question about KOFFIA in comparison with the Japanese Film Festival. One of the references Gray, R 2012, ‘Festivals traverse the region’, Metro Magazine, issue 174, pp108-109 actually looks at both KOFFIA and the Japanese Film Festival in case anyone is interested.

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