Early reviews praise Hong Huifang’s ‘charming’ performance in S’pore-South Korean film Ajoomma

(From left) Producer Anthony Chen, actor Kang Hyung-suk, actress Hong Huifang, producer Lee Joon-han, director He Shuming and actor Jung Dong-hwan. PHOTO: COURTESY OF GOLDEN VILLAGE PICTURES

BUSAN – Ajoomma, the first Singapore-South Korea co-produced feature film, held its world premiere at the 27th Busan International Film Festival (Biff) last Friday, and the first reviews have begun trickling in.

The film stars home-grown actress Hong Huifang as a widowed, middle-aged Singaporean woman who embarks on a solo trip to South Korea, where she joins a tour group led by guide Kwon-woo, played by Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha’s (2021) Kang Hyung-suk.

She later connects with a kind-hearted security guard, played by veteran South Korean actor Jung Dong-hwan of Hotel Del Luna (2016) and Winter Sonata (2002) fame.

The film was directed by He Shuming and produced by Anthony Chen (2013’s Ilo Ilo, 2019’s Wet Season), and has been selected as Singapore’s entry for the 2023 Oscars.

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It also received four nominations, including Best Leading Actress for Hong and Best New Director for He, at this year’s Golden Horse Awards, which is scheduled to take place in Taiwan on Nov 19.

Peter Debruge, the chief film critic for entertainment trade Variety, called the film an “upbeat debut”, but noted that it was “more of a dark horse in (the Oscar’s) race, albeit one with art-house sleeper potential”.

Nikki Baughan, a contributing editor at British film trade publication Screen Daily, concurred, calling it a “warm debut” in her own review, adding praise for 61-year-old Hong’s “charming central performance”.

Ajoomma will land in local cinemas on Oct 27.

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