An impressive and thought provoking film about the lives of young adults in Korea

Super Junior’s Lee Donghae shows off his acting mettle in The Rumour, one of four short films from “The Youth Project” shown before his Q&A at the London Korea Film Festival (LKFF).

Lee Donghae gives an emotional performance as high school student Lee Jung Woo, the student president who has everything; the girl, the brains, the charms and the looks. But everything starts falling apart when a rumour leaks that his girlfriend is pregnant. With promotion of safe sex having been one of Jung Woo’s lead campaigns in the student election, the rumour threatens to take his position away from him, and when a mysterious unknown starts blackmailing him with what appears to be a video of his girlfriend cheating, things effectively start ripping at the seams.

During the Q&A after the screening, the idol-turned-actor admitted to finding his character a challenge, but from his impressive display of a wide range of emotions and the maturity of his acting, there is surely a lot more still to be seen from Donghae.

The Youth Project was organised by the Korea Creative Content Agency (KCCA) to provide opportunity and promote creative energy among young people in Korea. It selected five young and talented film makers to produce a film each and cast popular singers known for taking on acting projects as their leads, succeeding in drawing public attention to the project. The general theme for each short film revolves around young people and their struggles to combat stress, financial problems, peer pressure and bullying.

Popular Girl Group member Nam Jihyun from 4 Minute stars in On the Way to Boot Camp, in which she faces a break-up when her boyfriend is called away for military service. She agrees to drive him to the training site, when an old friend emerges, and the journey takes a turn for the worse as their car breaks down and mobsters give chase looking for revenge. A story about friendships and young love, this short-film is surprisingly lighter than the rest, leaving the audience in tears of laughter from creative solutions the trio of kids come up with while making their way to the military site.

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Rock/pop band F.T. Island’s guitarist Song Seung-hyun in No Man can be Trusted, starts off as one part in a trio who have succeeded in robbing a bank. As it turns out, none of the three actually knows each other in person: the whole heist was planned online. When questions rise as to how much money was actually taken and who deserves a bigger share, suspicion grows between the unfamiliar thieves and suspense is built beautifully by the director and actors. A short thriller-like film which culminates in a bloodbath of dead bodies and a great plot twist means that No Man Can Be Trusted is the one short from The Youth Project which stands in comparison with bigger projects like Rough Play at the LKFF this year.

Finally, The Youth Projects fourth and final film, Play Girlz, takes the word Catfight to a whole new level. With a daring new approach towards the life of female students, it touches on themes which are more often than not seen as “taboo” in Korean film industry. While bullying is nothing new, homosexuality certainly is, and the way Play Girlz takes a strong group of female leaders and adds in what is most definitely both strongly sexual and taboo, makes it the most controversial of the four films.

Every year the London Korea Film Festival provides a glimpse into the scene of the Korean film industry. With a mix of popular blockbusters and up and coming indie pictures, it acts as a gateway to fresh cultural insights into what is a rapidly growing scene in the world of entertainment.

See the trailer for The Youth Project below:

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Journalism and Media & cultural studies @ Kingston University, London. Aspiring traveller. There's always a story to tell - my job is to find the perfect angle!