TIFF 2023: Is Concrete Utopia, screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, based on a comic book?

“Concrete Utopia” looks to be one of the talks of the festival circuit this year, as it received its international premiere at TIFF 23

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Though it saw a release in South Korean cinemas earlier in August and is soon to be the talk of the festival circuit with appearances coming in October at Sitges International Film Festival and Hawaii International Film Festival’s “Spotlight on Korea” section, it is at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023 that K-Thriller “Concrete Utopia” has received its international debut. 

Directed by Um Tae-hwa, who received acclaim for his 2017 feature film debut, “Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned,” his new film is a mixture of disaster movie and societal drama, a common theme in K-Theatre as exemplified by Bong Joon-Ho’s Oscar-winning feature “Parasite.” Perhaps a more emotionally charged version of “San Andreas” starring Dwayne Johnson, then?

In all seriousness though, the official synopsis for the movie reads:  “The world has been reduced to rubble by a massive earthquake. While no one knows for sure how far the ruins stretch, or what the cause of the earthquake may be, in the heart of Seoul there is only one apartment building left standing. It is called Hwang Gung Apartments.”

“As time passes, outsiders start coming into Hwang Gung Apartments trying to escape the extreme cold. Before long, the apartment residents are unable to cope with the increasing numbers. Feeling a threat to their very survival, the residents enact a special measure.”

“Concrete Utopia” brings actor Lee Byung-hun back to our screens who many Western cinema fans may recall him for his role as Storm Shadow in the “G.I Joe” film franchise or as Front Man in Netflix’s “Squid Game”, but in his homeland of South Korea, he is a multi-award winning actor. 

His critically acclaimed film “Inside Men” (2015) won him the Best Actor prize in three prestigious award ceremonies: 52nd Baeksang Art Awards, 37th Blue Dragon Awards and 53rd Grand Bell Awards, and Lee has five films—Joint Security Area, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Masquerade, Inside Men and Master—on the list of highest-grossing films in South Korea.

Who stars in “Concrete Utopia”?

According to IMDB, “Concrete Utopia” stars the following South Korean performers:

  • Lee Byung-hun as Yeong-tak
  • Park Seo-joon as Min-seong
  • Park Bo-young as Myeong-hwa
  • Kim Sun-young as Geum-ae
  • Park Ji-hu as Hye-won
  • Kim Do-yoon as Do-gyun

Has “Concrete Utopia” been adapted from another medium?

"Concrete Utopia" was based on the South Korean webtoon "Pleasant Bullying" by Kim Soo-nyung (Credit: Namu)"Concrete Utopia" was based on the South Korean webtoon "Pleasant Bullying" by Kim Soo-nyung (Credit: Namu)
"Concrete Utopia" was based on the South Korean webtoon "Pleasant Bullying" by Kim Soo-nyung (Credit: Namu)

"Concrete Utopia" was based on the South Korean webtoon "Pleasant Bullying" by Kim Soo-nyung (Credit: Namu)

“Concrete Utopia” is based on a South Korean webtoon called “Pleasant Bullying” (유쾌한 왕따), a post-apocalyptic tale that focuses on Donghyun, who is an outcast and while celebrating his 15th birthday meets Suhyeon, a transfer student. 

Something about him starts to shake - but as it transpires it’s not him, but a mega-quake that rocks the world and causes the collapse of civilization.

The webtoon was created by Kim Soo-nyung, who made his webtoon debut in 2011 with the series “On Parade.”

When will “Concrete Utopia” play at TIFF 2023?

“Concrete Utopia” plays at the Toronto International Film Festival on the following days:

  • Monday, September 11
  • Friday, September 15
  • Friday, September 15
  • Saturday, September 16

For start times and if the screenings are public or industry performances, you can visit the film’s page on the TIFF 2023 website. 

How do I get tickets to the Toronto International Film Festival?

There are three ticketing options available for the Toronto International Film Festival 2023 once again. They are:

Curated Ticket Packages. On sale in June, these packages provide guaranteed access to multiple screenings or events with a common genre or theme, with screening dates, times and seating locations selected by TIFF. A great option for film lovers who want seats locked in for their favourite programme.

Individual Tickets. Purchase tickets to screenings one-by-one and get the exact seat you want. The best way to get a ticket to the films you want to see the most. Tickets are on sale in August, with Members having priority access.

Flexible option. For Members, save 20% on Regular screenings when purchasing a ticket bundle. This option will only be available on the TIFF Festival Account Manager. 

Pre-sale tickets will be available from August 21 2023 to those with access through affiliate programs such as VISA Infinity and TIFF members, while general ticket sales will commence August 28 2023. 

Tickets range between $26 to $32 Canadian dollars for regular screenings, then $39 to $88 Canadian dollars for premium screenings.