Ubisoft Presents Fantasia 2008

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May 18th

(Hwaryeohan Hyooga)

Canadian Premiere

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Director: Kim Ji-hun
Screenplay: Park Sang-yeon
Cast: Ahn Sung-kee, Kim Sang-kyung, Lee Yo-won
Producers: Lee Soo-nam
Distributor: CJ Entertainment


Early on a quiet spring morning in 1980, an order goes out. South Korean soldiers grab their gear and pour into the planes that will take them to the mysterious destination to which they have been deployed. With hushed excitement, they contemplate confronting their sworn enemies to the north. But something’s not right. The sun’s on the wrong side of the plane. They’re headed south…

On the streets of Gwangju, daily life unfolds. Political tensions have been running high following General Chun Doo-hwan’s military coup, but for Min-woo and his family, friends and neighbours, for the most part, insignificant personal matters take precedence. Their comforting calm is about to be shattered, however. The army has been dispatched to suppress the student uprising, and will do so with excessive and indiscriminate force, brutalizing bystanders and turning a city against it. Over the course of mere days, the violence will escalate, citizens will band together as a militia to defend themselves, Gwangju will explode and Min-woo will find himself caught at the eye of the storm.

May 18, 1980 is a date that to this day harbours a somber resonance for South Koreans, recalling a tragedy that left over 200 civilians dead and vast numbers wounded. Like 2003’s gritty SILMIDO , Kim Ji-hoon’s box-office hit MAY 18 reveals a painful episode from a troubled time in the country’s recent history. The gripping recreation of the events that occurred in Gwangju on and following that date slowly but surely builds to a fever pitch, capturing the scale and complexity of the Gwangju uprising without losing sight of the human beings, the regular folks with strengths, flaws and bonds of the heart who were swept by history into desperate defiance.

—Rupert Bottenberg