By Chung Ah-young
Low-budget South Korean documentary "Old Partner"
topped the one million viewer mark Friday, providing new hope for the domestic indie film industry.
It is the first time an independent film has drawn more than one million viewers in local theaters, where local blockbusters and Hollywood movies have dominated for decades.
Thirty-seven days after its Jan. 15 release, ticket sales reached the landmark figure. Although the film opened quietly at seven cinemas, it is now being screened at more than 160 theaters nationwide after creating word of mouth buzz.
Directed by Lee Chung-ryoul
, the film, exploring the loyal relationship between an ox and an old farmer, exceeded by more than two-fold the previous record set by U.S. independent film "Fahrenheit 911" in 2004. The U.S. documentary, directed by Michael Moore, drew 450,000 viewers in South Korea, followed by Irish indie-movie "Once", which drew 220,000.
The winner of the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival, "Old Partner"
was the first Korean documentary to compete at the Sundance Film Festival.
Movie critics in and out of the country praised the film as "delightful" for its humorous yet poetic depiction of a longstanding companionship between an elderly farming couple and their ox in a Korean farming village.
President Lee Myung-bak was among the many to watch the film last week, calling it a "wonderful film that superbly depicted our everyday life".
Organizers of the Sundance Film Festival introduced the movie as "a charming, heartbreaking, existential buddy tale that conveys the almost mystical inextricability of humans and nature".
Korea Times intern Hwang Sung-hee assisted to this article.