The Silent River Film Festival's Silent River Film and Literary Society, which its founder compares to the Orange County Film Society run by the Newport Beach Film Festival staff, has scored quite a coup in Irvine.
For the Silent River society's first-ever, non-festival event, it is honoring visiting South Korean director Chung Ji-young and screening his torturiffic National Security (aka Namyeong-dong 1985).
Like the Orange County Film Society, which presents the “festival experience” for members during the weeks the springtime Newport Beach Film Festival is not running, the nonprofit Silent River Film and Literary Society aims to celebrate worthy cinema, according to Kalpna Singh-Chitnis, the founder and director of the Silent River Film Festival held every fall in Irvine.
The society will also fete literature, notes Singh-Chitnis, who adds her festival is now supported by the city of Irvine, just as its Newport Beach counterpart is by that city.
For the inaugural society event comes Chung, who is to receive the first-ever “River Spirit Award” in recognition of his lifetime achievements. His other films include: Mist Whispers Like Women (1982); North Korean Partisan in South Korea (1989); With Badge (1992); Life of Hollywood Kid (1994); Black Jack (1997); Ga (1998); A Journey of the Korean Master (2011); Ari Ari the Korean Cinema (2011); and Unbowed (2011). (I don't know what is more impressive: that he churned out three films in 2011 or that he had not made one in the 13 years before.)
Besides scooping up the lifetime achievement hardware, Chung, on behalf of veteran actor Ahn Sung-Kee, will pick up the “River Rock Award,” which was the best actor award from the 2012 Silent River Film Festival screening of the courtroom drama Unbowed.
The ceremony is set for Sunday, Aug. 11, in the Irvine Civic Center. That's also where National Security screens before attendees move on to a reception in Chung's honor at the Sam Woo Restaurant in Irvine, “where the audience and fans of director Chung will have some exclusive moments with him,” according to Singh-Chitnis.
But, according to the festival founder who is also a poet, actor and filmmaker herself, “Director Chung-Ji-young during his visit to Irvine does not want to be treated like a celebrity; instead, he wants to be treated just like another human being and as a friend.”
Be advised that this new friend will have just given National Security viewers a swift gut check.
Park Won-sang plays Kim Jong-tae, a young father and pro-democracy advocate who endures 22 days of torture in 1985 at the hands of a military dictatorship. The film is based on an autobiographical essay by Kim Geun-tae, a South Korean dissident who went on to become a respected government minister before his death in 2011. Here's an oh-so-brief clip:
"National Security reflects on South Korea's painful scars, and many people ask me, why do you look back on such tragic, past events, rather than dreaming about a brighter and joyful future? I want to share with them that the reason for reflecting back on those pains is not to denounce them, but to overcome by facing them,” Chung has said in an interview. "To experience a bright and hopeful future, we first need to overcome our agony and pain.”