Chul Heo (NTU) is a filmmaker and media scholar. His interests symbiotically complement each other, as a theorist and artist, by combining theory and praxis, academia and industry, and fiction with nonfiction to improve our media culture. As a media scholar, Chul has taught at various institutions including Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Korea University, San Francisco State University and the University of Iowa. He specializes in film aesthetics, media production, and critical cultural studies. Chul Heo received his Ph.D. in Media Studies from the University of Iowa and M.F.A. in film/television production from Brooklyn College of City University of New York.
His filmmaking career has spanned more than two decades and earned him credits on both fictional and non-fictional feature films, as well as short films, TV series and music videos. Chul has directed three feature films which have been distributed in theaters nationwide in South Korea. The most recent fiction, “The Return” (2017), won the Golden Zenith Award, winner in the First Fiction World Competition at the 41st Montreal World Film Festival. His two nonfictional feature films, “Ari Ari the Korean Cinema” (2012) and “Mira Story” (2015), which made a national controversy in South Korea by raising the critical views on the role of the government and capitalistic power in filmmaking and local community respectively, and have been screened in international film festivals in Paris, Bhutan, Busan, and Irvine. He has been very active in advocating marginalized voices in society by making more than fifteen short films both in Korea and America. His various works have been broadcast nationally on PBS stations in the U.S. and MBC network in Korea. As a film festival director, he founded Annual San Francisco Korean Film Festival in 2001 and was actively engaged in film festival movement in the U.S.
Locating individuals in a larger context is at the center of my research interest as a filmmaker and media scholar. The upcoming three feature films place their main characters into the larger social context: an intellectual who is in a dilemma whether or not to participate in activism (Façade), three musicians who struggle to change their troubled environment through music (Daesunggak), and two painting artists who are forced to quit their passion for arts by the capitalistic and socialistic systems of two Koreas (Speech Bubbles). How is the fate of the fragile individual mediated by larger social and cultural forces? Are these individuals empowered agencies that bring liberating change, or helpless persons determined by the greater power of society? It is all to understand ‘human conditions,’ as Hannah Arendt is concerned, to explore whether human beings are progressing or not.
By attending to the notion of ‘interplay’ between symbolic and economic dimensions, my current research projects recognize the “differences” and the “contradictions” within the production dimension of film culture both in America, Korea, and Southeast Asia. They embrace the contradictory duality of culture and economy within the industry by focusing on the complex production site of popular cultural negotiations between various discursive formations. Production artists stand on this production site. Moving beyond a descriptive endeavor, I aim to disclose the power of creative artists in media as emancipatory players who unlock the artistic potential of their chosen medium and hope to produce many sparks of imaginative engagements that can benefit academia and the creative industries.
In this context, my current projects care about the production site and people in my book project – Critical Approaches to Media Production and journal articles – Imagined Audience in Asian Cinema in the Age of Digital Streaming and Production Culture of Southeast Asian Cinema.