Office politics evidently exist worldwide as seen in the sharply drawn, well-acted South Korean film, “10 Minutes,” which competes in the Narrative Competition category of the Los Angeles Film Festival 2014. Written by Kim Da-Hyun and directed by Lee Yong-Seung, “10 Minutes” follows university student Ho-chan (Baek Jong-Hwan) as he accepts an internship at a state-run media company to help with family debt. It may be a different culture, but worker personality traits are universal in any language.
Hoping that this temporary job, will allow ample time to study, Ho-chan learns the impossibility of this dream. Instead, Ho-chan is immediately thrown into office tasks with little support. Because of his solid work practices, he naturally gains more responsibility and more work that reach into all hours of his life. Ho-chan quickly learns that his bosses frown on higher learning and a career as a producer; it’s better to be safe in a job like theirs.
Although Ho-chan accepts the additional workload, he tries to separate himself from the socializing and politics. But each day this becomes more difficult, especially with the arrival of a cute, new employee (Lee Si-Won) who is well versed in “playing the office game.” Soon everything at work (and at home) is thrown into heightened situations. Ho-chan experiences firsthand all the brown-nosing and backstabbing inherent from those stuck in dead-end positions, and those trying to climb the executive ladder.
Jong-Hwan is excellent as Ho-chan, caught between his family and co-workers’ neediness. His portrayal of a young man just wanting to find his place the world is universally relatable, and it’s impossible not to cringe at the nutty, yet realistic shenanigans he faces. There’s no doubt that there will be a breaking point, and when it happens, director Yong-Seung handles the humorous and unsettling situation with deft skill.
At the Los Angeles Film Festival Thursday night, director Yong-Seung introduced his film for its opening performance, and returned for questions after the well-received screening. Excited to be in Los Angeles for the festival, Yong-Seung explained that he worked in a government office and much of the dialog was drawn from these real-life situations. He also said that he felt badly when he heard comments throughout the international festival circuit that audiences identified with these work experiences – he hoped that such bad behavior was isolated to his experience in South Korea. (No such luck.)
Director Lee Yong-Seung and his leads, Baek Jong-Hwan and Lee Si-Won are definitely talents to watch in the future. Likewise, the wry “10 Minutes” is certainly a film to be on the lookout for either theatrically, or on DVD or VOD.
“10 Minutes” is 93 minutes, in Korean with English subtitles.