As part of this year’s event, organizers of SDAFF added a special selection called Celluloid Jukebox which were films that were iconic to the youth of the past.  One of the films was Director Yim Soon-Rye’s 2001 “Waikiki Brothers” that brought the story of a struggling musician in a town where everyone was trying to stay afloat.

Sung-woo (Lee Eol) and his three friends formed the band Waikiki Brothers and they travelled far from home to perform at various gigs to make meager pay. Things began to change for them when they accepted to go back to Sung-woo’s hometown to play at the local hotel and club, but not for the better. With their saxophonist returning to his family, it was the remaining trio left to entertain the crowd. As his drummer kept playing games and his keyboardist played with women, Sung-woo ran into his old classmates. They dove into their past as the first iteration of Waikiki Brothers before the economic hardships arrived. Their youthful days had Western rock songs and girls they tried to attract. Unlike his friends, Sung-woo continued with the music but all of them were stuck in the time’s slump. The only silver lining appeared in the form of his crush (Oh Ji-hye) who still amazed her with her voice but now sold fresh ingredients.

“Waikiki Brothers” is a time capsule of the Korean New Wave and will open eyes and ears to those are fans of current Korean pop culture. While there are some covers of Western songs, the movie’s soundtrack has an array of popular trot songs including Koyote’s “Pure Love” and Kim Jong-Chan’s 토요일은 밤이 좋아 (“Like a night on Saturday”,”I Like Saturday Nights” or “Saturday Nights are Amazing” depending on translator) . The movie also brings raw emotions as the featured men confront each problem but tries to offset it with some funny and awkward moments. Though it doesn’t reach a hard resolution, the movie settles to well with Sung-woo’s final decision for himself and leaves a bit of a satisfactory feeling.

Director Yim Soon-Rae participated in a post-screening Q&A and was first asked about the difference in dealing with going back to the hometown between this movie and her current one “Little Forest” was the SDAFF 2018 opener. She replied that the sentiment in “Little Forest” is more relatable towards of current times while “Waikiki Brother” was about that time in South Korea. When she asked about audience’s reaction, one spoke that “Waikiki” showed a universal feeling about the struggle of artistic pursuit versus practical reality. The moderator asked if there any intentions on having it focused on “masculinity, self-destructiveness and music” since she was a female director working during a time of change in the country’s film industry. The director said that she used the songs as representations of the shift in mentality towards aspirations like how the kids sang English rock songs but as adults performed not as classy songs to get by.
An audience member asked Director Yim on her thoughts regarding seeing the film again and what she would do if she had the chance to remake it. She answered saying she didn’t choose professional actors for “Waikiki Brothers” and casted “real people” and theater actors however noticed their slightly awkward acting enough to reconsider her old preference. Director Yim also added that if she would re-shoot it that she would add close-ups to give a kinder feel and less distance between characters and audience. She mentioned that she casted a lot of men due to the type of scenes she had in the film and even though they were younger than her, she had no problems working with them due to that but some issues came up because of their inexperience with movies.

“Waikiki Brothers” won Best Film in the 2002 Baeksang Arts Awards and Director Yim earned one as Best Director from the Korean Association of Film Critics the year before. Her latest, “Little Forest” was as previously mentioned the opener to this year’s festival and information can be found on their website. Check out PacArts for more on their events including new screenings.

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