The South Korean film that showcases Sydney

Zoo-young Lee found the locals were initially reluctant when she wanted to shoot a South Korean film in Sydney last year.

But when the residents of Longueville found out she was one of her country's handful of women filmmakers - they make just a few of the scores of South Korean feature films shot every year - they warmed to the idea.

"The location manager persuaded them," Lee says through a translator from Seoul. "There are not that many Australian female directors so [when they learned the director was a South Korean woman] the neighbours started supporting the shoot. They were very nice to us."

The film, A Single Rider, is now screening as part of the Korean Film Festival in Australia.

It's a reflective drama that centres on a fund manager enmeshed in a fraud scandal who decides to follow his wife to Sydney where their son is studying.

He helps a young South Korean backpacker who has lost her money in a black market currency deal and discovers his wife has become close to an Australian neighbour with a child of his own.

The cast is headed by South Korean star Byung-hun Lee (The Magnificent Seven), Hyo-jin Kong, K-Pop singer So-hee An and Jack Campbell (All Saints, Home and Away).

The film shows what the city looks like from a South Korean perspective - beautiful around the harbour and idyllic at the beach but a struggle because of the cultural differences and difficulties with language and visas.

Lee says she wanted to set the film in Australia because it was so different from Korea - a much bigger country with contrasting seasons.

She has been a regular visitor to shoot commercials for the likes of Samsung mobile phones and Ssangyong cars.

"For Koreans, Australia is a pretty familiar country but people don't really know much about it," she says.

So how do they view Australia?

"The young generation mostly visit through the working holiday program," Lee says. "In their 30s and 40s, they often come here to study.

"Among the countries that speak English, Korean people think there's a bit less stress in Australia and, for young people, the high wages appeal. It's a little bit more 'foreign' than Asian countries."

Lee, who will be a guest at the festival on the weekend, shot for 21 days here with a crew of both South Koreans and Australians.

The festival's artistic director, David Park, says A Single Rider is the first Korean film set substantially in Australia.

"It's a very interesting feeling seeing Sydney portrayed from a Korean film perspective," he says. "Sydney is so beautifully shot and the themes reflect the general vibe - it's [portrayed as] a place definitely worth visiting despite the narrative of the story."

Park says the eighth festival includes the world premiere of the documentary Passage to Pusan, which follows Australian journalist Louise Evans as she follows in the footsteps of her grandmother as she tracked down her soldier son's grave after the Korean war.

"In creating this documentary, we wanted to pay a big tribute to the Australian veterans for their sacrifice during the Korean war," Park says.

Reflecting the breadth of Korean cinema, the festival opens with a drama about the friendship between two young girls (The World Of Us) and includes a gangster film (The Merciless), zombie pic (Seoul Station), thrillers (The Villainess, The Tooth And The Nail. The Age of Shadows), romantic comedy (Because I Love You), courtroom drama (New Trial), lesbian drama (Our Love Story) and slapstick comedy (The King's Case Note).

The Korean Film Festival in Australia runs in Sydney from August 17-26. A Single Rider screens at Dendy Opera Quays on Saturday.

The story The South Korean film that showcases Sydney first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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