“Some like it hot…some like it funny…some like it sweet…some like it spicy”. In case you are a little confused this is the promotional tagline from KOFFIA 2014. What is KOFFIA 2014 you ask? Why it’s the annual Korean Film Festival in Australia – a 9 day-long celebration of the best of Korean cinema. So I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
My experiences of KOFFIA were mediated through YouTube and the official website. Nonetheless, the use of these digital platforms shaped a space where the voices of Korean-Australians and Korean cinema could be heard. I quickly realised that the site was dominated by the event’s promotional video series – comical skits created and acted out by Korean-Australians with the tagline ‘need something spicy? KOFFIA is the answer’. My immediate thoughts when watching these videos (aside from the fact that they were quite funny) was that the producers had taken a leaf out of MyChonny’s book. It definitely had this MyChonny flavour – self-deprecating, comical reflection of the challenges of negotiating an Asian identity in Australian mainstream culture.
Aside from this skit series, the YouTube channel had posted a highlights reel of the festival with montaged video footage featuring the hundreds of fans who turned out for the event. I was surprised not only how successful this event was in carving out its own niche market, but also the ‘voices’ that were being heard. It wasn’t just Korean-Australians easily identifiable with their Aussie accents, but people from the broader Australian community were getting involved. During this short clip it was evident that there were many people from different countries (which I identified through their accents as they were talking in front of the camera).
Besides the fact that KOFFIA and other similar events “offer passionate fans of cinema new opportunities to discover the diversity of film from the region” (Gray, R 2012, p108), the festival is much more than that. It is a crossroads, where gender, age, culture and genre intersect. This ‘intersection’ can also be seen in curated online spaces which “has provided ample material to examine how cyberspace and other forms of new media assist the formation of diasporic subjectivities” (Suna, W et.al 2011, p520). Let’s take the ‘official’ film trailers on KOFFIA’s YouTube channel. I came to an interesting conclusion that – genre became very muddy. When viewing the trailer for the movie ‘Cold Eyes’, I initially thought it was categorised as a spy thriller. After a search on Google, Cold Eyes was considered to be a ‘crime’ movie, despite the fact that there was no obvious visual indicators such uniformed cops, detectives, police cars etc. commonly associated with this genre. In a sense, YouTube was a site of genre traversing one another which begs the question; do the corporate creators intentionally frame the movie in such a way as to influence how diasporic fan communities perceive genre?
It is also important to note that KOFFIA’s online presence also saw a complex cultural fusion of sorts – where elements of Korean, ‘mainstream Australia’ even ‘American’ culture merge. This was most evident in the comical skit series where ‘selfies’and ‘Mr No-work’ resonated with me because of their Australian as well as transcultural qualities. While, KOFFIA does allow individual voices to be heard, it acts as a collective voice for the Korean-Australian community raising concerns over who is and isn’t heard? Furthermore, there is an overriding corporate presence with companies like Samsung primary sponsors of the event. We must ask ourselves; does advertising play a role in the longevity of online diasporic communities? KOFFIA and more broadly, MyChonny and Natalie Tran have to do deals with the devil in order to maintain their presence online. Often these online communities play host to companies wishing to advertise on their sites. Does this reduce their credibility as an ‘authentic’ voice for diasporic Asian communities all around Australia?
Gray, R 2012, ‘Festivals traverse the region’, Metro Magazine, issue 174, pp108-109.
KOFFIA 2014, ‘Cold Eyes’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 23 July, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zhVUJ-F6ck
KOFFIA 2014, ‘Festival Highlights KOFFIA in Sydney’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 21 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrLhoIChfdc
KOFFIA 2014, ‘Selfie Girlfriend Bonus Cut’, YouTube: KOFFIA official, 8 August, viewed 24 August 2014, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0v0HtihqDk
Suna, W; Yueb, A; Sinclairb, J; Gaob, J 2011, ‘Diasporic Chinese media in Australia: A post-2008 overview’, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, volume 25, issue 4, pp515-527.