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Feature profile - My Way

Headed for the Berlinale Panorama section, director Kang Je-gyu's "My Way"is a historic film is more ways than one. KANG Byeong-jin goes over the details.


World War II film "My Way" is Kang Je-gyu's fourth film as a director, following "The Gingko Bed", "Shiri" and "Taegukgi". "Shiri" was the first Korean film to bring in over 2 million admissions in Seoul (back when nationwide figures were unavailable and the capital's statistics were used as rule-of thumb). On its release, "Taegukgi" along with "Silmido" opened the era of Korean films with admissions of 10 million and more.

Even from the outside, "My Way" seems like an extension of the challenges Kang's work took on before. The film's stage spans Korea to China through the former Soviet Union to Normandy, and it stars Jang Dong-gun and Joe Odagiri, the top stars of Korea and Japan respectively. More than anything, the film's budget of about KW28 billion (US$24.8 million) is the highest ever in Korean cinema history.

The film was produced by Kang's company Directors. SK Telecom and CJ E&M both put in 40% each and the other 20% came from partial investors in China and Korea. The Chinese company that took on 10% of the production costs was Mu Xiao Guang, the company that also represents Fan Bingbing, the Chinese actress who appears in "My Way".

Based on a true story, the film follows a Korean man who gets drafted into the Japanese colonial army in the late 1930s and forced into battles and prisoner camps in China, the former Soviet Union, and ends up in Normandy to be captured by American troops on the day of the Allied invasion. The film also portrays the conflict, reconciliation and friendship he has with a Japanese man, once his boyhood rival in running races, who is fated to walk the same path as he.

"Whether the victim or the victimizer in the war, this was a story that not even those involved knew much about", he said, noting what makes this film particularly different from many other war films. Kang says he was moved by the script and a television documentary on the subject of 'a Korean in Normandy' and fascinated by the man's uncrushed spirit in the middle of historic upheaval.

Much of the film was shot on Korea's Saemangeum Seawall, a great 401㎢ plain created by filling in the sea. The only overseas location in "My Way" was Latvia, where they shot the Normandy invasion.

Although the film has so far clocked up more than 2 million admissions in Korea, "My Way"'s real challenge now is in seeing how well it does in the global arena. Starting with a January release in Japan where it opened at no. 3 in its first week, the film is set to open in more than 20 territories including China, the US, UK, Germany and Australia.

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