THE FREER GALLERY’s Korean Film Fest D.C. is always a welcome event, in part because South Korean directors are making some of the most unusual, arresting and assured films in the world righta now.

But South Korean movies have a reputation. It’s not untrue that elaborately violent flicks pour out of the country at a rate that rivals that of Hong Kong, but there’s more going on than stomach-turning shoot-’em-ups, as this year’s festival attests.

It kicks off on Friday with a screening of the deadpan comedy “My Dear Enemy,” starring incomparable actress Jeon Do-youn, and powers on through May 16 with “May 18,” a harrowing look at 1980’s Gwangju Uprising.

In between, the festival features a retrospective of independent director Jeon Soo-il’s confident, French-inspired works, and special appearances and discussions. Expect psychodrama (“M“), philosophical exploration (“Dream“), family conflict (“My Friend and His Wife“), spooky romance (“For Eternal Hearts“) and, OK, a few gats and gals in Jang Hun’s “Rough Cut,” about gangsters, friendship and comedians.

» Freer Gallery, 12th Street & Independence Avenue SW; opens Fri., through May 16; free. (Smithsonian)

Photo courtesy Tom Vick