Students showcase Korean films at Block Museum

Lauren Mogannam

One of Eric Choi’s life ambitions was to put on a Korean film series. His goal was fulfilled when the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art teamed up with School of Communication students to bring a Korean and Japanese film series to campus during Winter Quarter.

“I have a passion for Korean cinema,” the Communication sophomore said. “I always have this desire to spread my passion so people can see what I see.”

Each year, Block cinema brings contemporary and classic films to the Northwestern community. Block cinema and students of the School of Communication collaborate on which films to show, but once a year the students are allowed to pitch an idea for a film series. If approved, the students organize and run the program themselves.

Choi was given the opportunity to showcase Korean films at the beginning of Winter Quarter after he shared his idea in spring 2007.

“I didn’t set out to change people,” Choi said. “My focus on the series was on social and political issues within Korean cinema and how it is represented from (a Korean perspective).”

Lionel Kesztenbaum, a visiting faculty member from France who attends the film series from time to time, said he appreciated having access to culturally diverse films.

“I would not have an opportunity to see these films if they were not at Block,” he said.

Along with fulfilling one of his life goals, Choi said he realized the difficulties in bringing international films to the United States.

“Sometimes it was hard because I had to go from company to company because the rights exchange hands frequently,” Choi said.

Choi said all his hard work paid off when he asked to get a print from director Kwang-su Park, one of his favorite Korean directors.

“I was so nervous calling Kwang-su Park,” he said. “It is hard to see the director as a living person, especially when you don’t see them in interviews and they are this icon.”

William Schmenner, the film curator and director of Block Cinema, was active in organizing the Asian film series on campus. He said he was especially fond of the Japanese portion of the series.

“They are some of the greatest films ever made,” Schmenner said. “You have to show them, just as a disc jockey has to play the (Rolling) Stones and the Beatles.”

The Asian film series has been noticed by some people in the Evanston and Northwestern communities.

“On average we get around 20 to 30 people per screening,” said Communication sophomore Christopher Poole, the program chairman at Block. “But we definitely have our regulars.”

Val True of Evanston has attended two of the Korean screenings this year.

“I like the films very much,” True said. “They are a great addition to the cultural scene.”

Evanston resident Iona Beller said she appreciates Block Museum’s international cinematic focus.

“The idea (for the series) is wonderful,” Beller said. “It’s what a university should offer.”

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