“Gangnam Style,” with its catchy beats and infectious dance moves, has thrust Korean pop culture into mainstream global society. But for those weary of the electro K-pop hit who may be interested in discovering the obscure side of Korean entertainment, the University is hosting the first ever Independent Korean Film Festival in the United States.

Ann Arbor Korean Independent Film Festival

Friday at 12 p.m. and 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Natural Science Auditorium

The Nam Center and the University’s Screen Arts and Cultures Department, in association with the Museum of Modern Art and The Korea Society, will run the festival Friday through Sunday, Oct. 7 in the Natural Science Building’s Kraus Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Sangjoon Lee, a postdoctoral research fellow in Screen Arts and Cultures, said the Center for Korean Studies is supportive of any kind of cultural event that showcases the Korean lifestyle.

“I decided to go with independent film because independent film has not been considered important, not even in South Korea,” Lee said. “I just want to show the diversity of Korean cinema.”

Lee explained that an independent Korean film is produced outside of the three main production studios in South Korea — CJ Entertainment, Showbox and Lotte Entertainment, which are comparable to Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios in the US. Lee said about 90 percent of South Korean films are produced through these three studios.

“Many people … are producing their own films with (an) extremely low budget,” he said. “But the ideas and scope and the styles and their creativity are many times better than the mainstream film product.”

According to Lee, similar to the United States, independent films in South Korea are shown almost exclusively at film festivals. That’s why he decided to organize this festival for students at the University who may have never been exposed to the genre.

The festival features nine films all released between 2009 and 2011. Lee said though he viewed between 20 and 25 worthy films in the past year, he selected the festival’s films because they displayed the best diversity and creativity, as well as acting and directing skills.

Lee said he hopes to continue the festival in the coming years if this year’s is a success.

“We’re really trying to bring at least one or two Korean independent film directors to the campus,” he said. “(And) have workshops, or masterclasses or discussions with film lovers at the University of Michigan.”

For students who don’t have time to view all nine of the films, Lee suggests attending the last film, “King of Pigs,” at 8 p.m. on Sunday. He also encourages students to attend “Talking Architect” at 12 p.m. on Friday, where a professor of Architecture from the University will briefly discuss Korean modern architecture before the screening. There will also be a question and answer segment after the viewing and a free lunch.

Jiyoung Lee, the center administrator for the Nam Center, said she is excited that the Korean Center is able to offer students such a rare glimpse into Korean culture.

“Korean films are becoming more and more popular and being recognized in various international film festivals — this type of film event is very timely,” she said. “We are extremely lucky to be able to host this type of film event in collaboration with MoMA and the Korea Society.”

Lee also pointed out the festival’s uniqueness — it is the first and only independent Korean film festival to occur in the United States.

“This film festival is indeed ground breaking in that we are bringing a number of Korean independent films to the Ann Arbor community for the first time,” she said. “From New York to Ann Arbor!”

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