02. Festival (Chugje) Im Kwon-taek, 1996
It is a dirty and disgusting scene. Just like sweet treats attract fruit flies, people who gather to attend a funeral drink, seduce the other sex, and gamble away the stolen funeral money; they are chastised for the debauchery as some fall onto the ground drunk and others run away with tails between their legs when they lose their gambling money.
“Grandma becomes old as she gives away her age, and her overflowing wisdom lets her give love to others.”
On the other hand, the funeral is a pure and fairytale-like affair, just as the line above alludes. The family continues on with the funeral, remembering the now-deceased grandmother. This is the plot of “Festival” (1996), a film about a funeral.
Figurative fruitflies swarm the funeral, but the title “Festival” is quite accurate. As such, the characters talk, laugh, cry, and fall asleep. The “Festival” is also pure and fairytale-like. The family is pitted against each other from the long history is emotions originating from their pity for the grandmother, but they soon come together in their longing for her as well. The “overflowing wisdom” turns into love.
The funeral of thirty years ago, as shown in the film, is not the same as contemporary ones, but not entirely different, either. It is in the recent past. As the director Im Kwon-taek pointed out in an interview, the Korean funeral tradition is “undesirable,” and as such, the “fruitflies” attracted to party table is a past that must fade away. The longing for the dead shown in the event is still the same in the present day, which makes it an element that will last into the future. While the old funeral conventions are dirty and disgusting, the longing for the dead imbued in them is a pure and fairytale-like emotion that continues today and will continue tomorrow.
“Festival” is one big party for adults who “give away age” and children who mature by receiving the age. (Lee Yong-gam, ‘Cinema on Wheels’ Coordinator, Korea Film Archive Cinematheque Team)