Ingtoogi: The Battle of Internet Trolls
Like so many Internet users all over the world, “Koolkidneyz” and “Manboobs” get into online arguments, not weighing their words, as the computer screen offers some level of protection. But increasingly, the boundaries between the real and the digital blur, and a phenomenon in South Korea has, for all intents and purposes, obliterated these barriers. Increasingly, members of online chatting or gaming communities have taken their feuds out of the virtual realm and into the real world, where violent brawls are organized to resolve online conflicts. This is known as “hyunpi” — a neologism that translates to “player kill in reality”. Manboobs has planned just that. Tricking Koolkidneyz — real name: Tae-sik (Um Tae-goo) — into meeting him in a park, Manboobs not only beats him remorselessly, but also videotapes the entire thing, and posts its online. Thoroughly humiliated, Tae-sik vows he’ll get revenge, and finds the opportunity to humiliate his opponent in an upcoming mixed martial arts competition. The Battle of Internet Trolls is underway, and with the help of his best friend Hee-joon (Kwon Yul) and a girl named Young-ja (Ryu Hye-young), Koolkidneyz begins his training for IRL Internet domination.
On the surface, Um Tae-hwa’s feature debut INGTOOGI: THE BATTLE OF INTERNET TROLLS is a delightfully quirky story of nerds battling each other both on- and off-line. But that quickly gives ways to an incredibly touching and in-depth study of South Korea’s contemporary youth culture — as mediated and nourished through the computer screen. In conjunction with the films of our line-up to mine the Internet for fresh formal possibilities (OPEN WINDOWS, CYBERNATURAL), INGTOOGI offers a striking, honest and incisive account of the familiar, yet foreign universe that is the Internet culture of another part of the world. From local chat interfaces to specific phenomena such as live-eating shows, INGTOOGI is a deep dive into the national geek consciousness, in a way that is rarely made possible by fiction films. Um makes the most of these storytelling possibilities, and through his great cast of characters, crafts a truly heartfelt story of alienation and loss. And like the boxing match that it all builds towards, the film’s greatest quality is its startling one-two punch structure, jabbing you with the upbeat outsider comedy before knocking you out with an utterly devastating yet pitch-perfect ending. A tremendous debut feature that speaks to the now, from a director to pay close attention to in the future.
— Ariel Esteban Cayer