Featured Image courtesy of San Diego Asian Film Festival

Director Ko Myoungsung’s 2019 film “The 12th Suspect” brought a murder mystery filled with suspence.

Set in post-Korean War Seoul, 1953 was not a kind year for local artists, whether they were writers or painters. “The 12th Suspect” focused on those that congregated in the Oriental Teahouse, a local cafe. There were tables already claimed by some trying to make progress on their work while others found a seat for a break. The quiet but dreary atmosphere changed when a drunk artist, Woo-Byung-Hong (Jung Ji-Soon, “Ugly Young-A”) started gossiping about the death of a writer, Baek Doo-Hwan (Nam Sung-Jin, “Chief of Staff”). However things become further tense when a member of the Special Operations Unit, Kim Ki-Chae (Kim Sang-Kyung, “What Happens to My Family?”) arrived to question the room about such death. The soldier in a suit began his investigation to see who commiteed the crime, but there seemed to be more beyond murder to bring him on the case.

“The 12th Suspect” could be compared to a tangled spider web. It had such an intensity as it unraveled thread by thread, revealing the connections between each character that were preyed upon. The film had a similar feel to “The Third Murder” where there was so much both character and audience had to uncover to understand the crime. “The 12th Suspect” brought a palatable amount of conspiracy and paranoia that might lead its audience questioning the situation. Program director Christina Ree mentioned that the location now is a “Mecca of K-culture and beauty” compared to this depiction of the past with impoverished artists. She also spoke about how the movie showed the “fine line for survival” that the characters had to tread on in the aftermath of the war. It had a tug-of-war between morality and self-preservation. “The 12th Suspect” was definitely a very dark mystery that kept some on the edge of their seats.

To read more about the film and find more about the San Diego Asian Film Festival, check out the SDAFF website.

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