Art & Entertainment

Year Ender 2023: 'Concrete Utopia' To 'Cobweb' - 5 Korean Films That Garnered Worldwide Acclaim

Check out the list of five South Korean movies that were the most popular globally.

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We're all aware that Korean films are known for their eye-catching narratives full of surprising yet wonderful plot twists, much like the flourishing K-drama industry, which is loved by people from all over the world. Take a look at the dynamic landscape of Korean cinema in 2023 through five exceptional films that have garnered global recognition.

'Cobweb' 

Cast: Song Kang-ho, Im Soo-jung, Oh Jung-se, Jeon Yeo-been, Krystal Jung

Release Date: September 27

The film is set in the backdrop of Seoul in the 1970s, where we see a film director wanting to make changes to the ending of his already-made film, titled ‘Cobweb.’ During that time, the government had strict regulations and norms related to censorship and what could be depicted in movies. The director, however, is of stubborn mind and he is determined to make whatever changes he wants to make. But things take a wrong turn for him and the film; censors get involved, and the cast and crew of the film are not happy with the new result, which wreaks havoc. 

'Cobweb' was screened at the 76th Cannes International Film Festival in May and received a 10-minute standing ovation. The film was also invited to the competition category of the 70th Sydney Film Festival.

'Past Lives'

Cast: Greta Lee, Teo Yoo, John Magaro

Release Date: June 2

Korean-Canadian writer Celine Song made her directional debut with ‘Past Lives,’ and there’s no better way this. Two childhood friends drift apart, physically and emotionally, only to reunite years later for a small period of time. Having moved on with their own lives, they re-discover love and friendship in each other. They try to make sense of their lives. Together, they take audiences on a journey intertwined with love and destiny.

The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and went onto screen at many film festivals. Named one of the top ten films of 2023 by the National Board of Review, it has bagged five nominations at the 81st Golden Globe Awards. 

'Concrete Utopia'

Cast: Lee Byung-hun, Park Seo-joon, Park Bo-young

Release Date: August 9

The movie focuses on the concept of survival of the fittest, following a devastating earthquake that ruined Seoul, where no one knew the cause or extent of the disaster. The city had fallen apart except for the Imperial Palace Apartments. Upon hearing the rumours of the only place being intact, outsiders rush in to seek refuge, causing the residents to feel afraid. They join hands, with Yeong-tak as a leader, to block out outside forces. However, in the midst of trying to survive, unexpected inside conflicts occur.

The film was selected as the entry of South Korea in the Best International Feature Film category at the 96th Academy Awards, but did not make it to the shortlist. It was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

'Jung_E'

Cast: Kang Soo-yeon, Kim Hyun-joo, and Ryu Kyung-soo

Release Date: January 20

This film dives into the dystopian future, where humanity is dependent on artificial intelligence. Set in the era of the 22nd century, it creates a backdrop of a world where climate change has made Earth no longer a suitable place to live. So, humans turn to seek refuge in engineered shelters. Amidst the chaos that starts to emerge with this world-changing event, Jung-yi has been converted into a robot, who is expected to lead the battle for survival.

Within a day of its release, 'Jung_E' secured the top spot globally in Netflix's film category. Following this, it made its debut as the number one film in Netflix's global Top 10 movies (non-English) category for the week spanning January 16 to 22.

'Smugglers'

Cast: Kim Hye-soo, Yum Jung-ah, Zo In-sung, Park Jeong-min, Kim Jong-soo, Go Min-si

Release Date: July 26

Professional women divers who are responsible for catching sea products, known as Haenyeo, lose their jobs in one night. We see Chun-ja, one of those women, trying to desperately make ends meet. While doing so, she discovers the horrific world of smuggling, and informs the leader of Haenyeo of it. She makes a decision of make a living out of it, regardless of its dangers and consequences. But slowly starts to enjoy it. Then, everything changes when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity knocks on her door.

The film was officially invited to the Special Presentations section at Toronto International Film Festival, which held from September 7th to 17th following the Locarno International Film Festival.

While the films don't have the same recognition as the dramas, it looks like they are catching up. 

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