Sangwoo Lee Screenings, Talks

Sangwoo Lee, one of South Korea’s most prolific independent filmmakers, will be a guest of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during the week of September 13, 2014. Lee’s work has screened at film festivals around the world and established the director as an artist dedicated to illustrating the lives of people living at the margins of Korea’s newly affluent, westernized society.

In Barbie , Lee provides an unflinchingly gritty “portrait of Korean adoption.” The film stars Sae-ron Kim and Ah-ron Kim (real-life sisters), and K-drama favorite Cheon-hee Lee in a career-changing performance. Barbie is a stinging critique of contemporary obsessions with financial success, physical beauty, and unbridled consumerism. The film received standing ovations at its world premiere during the 2011 Busan International Film Festival, and went on to enjoy a commercially successful run in Korean theatres.

Lee’s latest feature, Speed , is a character study of four young men, who, after turning 21, begin to destroy their once promising lives. The film features performances by some of Korea’s most popular young actors, including Tae-hwan Choi, who had a recurring role in the internationally successful TV series, The Heirs .

“Lee’s name has become synonymous with the shocking, the provocative,” said Robert Cagle, Cinema Studies and Media Services Specialist at Illinois. “In 2008, a viewer fainted at the premiere screening of his first feature, Tropical Manila , and controversy has seemingly followed him ever since. However, far from being, as some critics have suggested, a younger version of enfant terrible Ki-duk Kim, Lee clearly expresses a heartfelt sympathy with the hopeless characters that populate his films. His unique style of filmmaking helps audience members, no matter how distant or different they may seem to be from the characters on screen, to find themselves in his stories of people battling loneliness, abuse, and despair.”

The public will have three opportunities to see Mr. Lee’s work and speak with him during his visit to Urbana:

On Sunday, September 14, Lee will take part in an open forum on his life and work as part of Unit One’s visiting artist program. The event will be held at 7:00 p.m. in the South Rec Room of Allen Hall (1005 West Gregory Drive, Urbana). Free parking is available at the parking ramp across the street on the west side of Allen Hall.

On Monday, September 15, at 7:00 p.m. Lee will present the first-ever public screening of his newest film, Speed , at Champaign’s historic Virginia Theatre (203 West Park Street, Champaign).

Finally, on Tuesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m. Lee will screen his 2011 feature, Barbie , at the Spurlock Museum (600 South Gregory Street, Urbana). Tuesday night’s screening will be followed by an open discussion with the director.

All events are free and open to the public, however, because the films contain material that may be considered unsuitable for younger viewers, no one under the age of 17 will be admitted without a parent or guardian.

For more information, send e-mail to or visit .

These events were made possible by the generous support of the University of Illinois Library , the Center for Advanced Study , the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies , the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures , the Program in Comparative and World Literature , and Unit One .

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