Set for an international premiere in the Berlinale Panorama section, director Jeon Kyu-hwan's "From Seoul to Varanasi" has been re-edited since its world premiere in Busan. Kim Seong-hun met with Jeon's producer CHOI Mi-Ae to talk about their work together and profile the film.
- Photograph by CHOI Sung-yeol
Treefilm, the production company of upcoming Berlinale Panorama film "From Seoul to Varanasi", was founded by producer CHOI Mi-Ae and director Jeon Kyu-hwan. Together they made the "Town Trilogy" of "Mozart Town" (2008), "Animal Town" (2009) and "Dance Town" (2010) which travelled to numerous international film festivals including San Sebastian, Hong Kong and Torino. They are now in production for Jeon's next film entitled "Moogae" in Korean, meaning "weight".
Producer Choi Mi-Ae says, "After he shot the 'Town Series', director Jeon Kyu-hwan wanted to shoot something new. He was originally working on the script of "Moogae" but suddenly said he wanted to shoot a melodrama and wrote the script in a month and started shooting without even making storyboards. Of course, it wasn't the ordinary kind of melodrama we are used to seeing".
"From Seoul to Varanasi" made its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last year, but with some new ideas, director Jeon Kyu-hwan re-edited the film and added new music.The "Varanasi" that will be screened in Berlin is in some senses another world premiere as well as technically an international premiere.
The film is about a husband (Yoon Dong-hwan) who is the head of a publishing company and his wife (CHOI Won-jung) who is a stay-at-home housewife, and the affairs they each have with different people. The husband is secretly seeing one of his company's novelists (SHIN Ye-an). The wife grows closer to an Indian man (Nollaig WALSH) that she happens to help one day.
With a story dealing with the respective romances of the couple, it could seem like a sordid affair film, but "Varanasi" is more like a melodrama than that. Also, the film follows the emotions of these people – the publishing company president, the novelist, the housewife, and the foreigner living in Korea – under the surface of their social statuses and images.
One of the most important issues for the filmmakers was the casting, which was going to be difficult not just because of the film's low budget, but because there would be so much nudity. Yoon Dong-hwan, who played the husband in the film, is more familiar to Korean audiences from his performances in TV drama series than films. Previously an actors' manager, Jeon had known and met with Yoon since those early days, and so started working on the film with him in mind.
"The director said actors with an image like Yoon Dong-hwan are rare. He said he wanted to show such an actor being used in a different [kind] of drama", says Choi.
Aside from Yoon, and Choi Won-jung as the wife and Shin Ye-an as the novelist portraying the characters' emotions, the Indian city of Varanasi also plays an important part in portraying the film's sensibilities.
"Varanasi, adjacent to the Ganges river, is a city where life and death coexist. A few days before we started shooting on location in India, a terrorist bombing even occurred there. There's a terrorist bombing scene in the story, too, and that was a kind of connection to this city".From Seoul to Varanasi" is also a film that is inspired by the city of Varanasi", says Choi.
"From Seoul to Varanasi" was made for about KW150 million (US$132,600) including in-kind support. Showbox / Mediaplex is handling the film's international sales.
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