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MY BEAUTIFUL GIRL, MARI

South Korea, 2002 (MIFF 2002, Animation Gallery)

Director: Lee Sung-Gang

South Korean animator Lee Sung-Gang's feature debut (which recenty won the Grand Prix for Best Animated Feature at the prestigious Annecy Animation Festival) is a highly original cinematic fantasy. It has echoes of feverish childhood dreams shot through with a wide-eyed fascination with a world that appears too large and mysterious to ever truly fathom.

An only child, lonely 12-year-old Namoo is both excited and terrified at the prospect of being sent off to boarding school for the new term. He counts down the days to the end of an idyllic summer and, at some point, trepidation begins to outweigh curiosity. Events in his real life begin to intersect with wildly hallucinatory daytime visions. A chance encounter with an old friend amid the bustle of downtown Seoul leads Namoo to reflect on his childhood.

A crumbling lighthouse offers a portal to a fantastic realm where he meets the enigmatic Mari and receives hints of impending disaster in his village. Lee has chosen a child hero but the concerns of his film are universal. Blending both 2-D and 3-D animation, the film's rich patlette and sublime textures enhance the dreamlike, and at times melancholic and wistful, atmosphere.

Lee Sung-Gang (born in 1962) graduated with a Psychology Degree at Yonsei University, and is now president of the animation group Dal. His short films include Little Moon (1995), Tickle (1997) and Ashes in the Thicket (MIFF 1999). My Beautiful Girl, Mari is his debut feature.

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