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Food Is More Than a Metaphor for Maverick Director

2006/02/23 Source

Sin Jae-in (36) is one of a tiny handful of women directors in Korea's male-dominated film industry. Her independent production "Shin Sung-il is Lost", which was released on Feb. 16, tells the heartrending story of orphans in a home where appetite for food is considered a sin.

Before the Chosun Ilbo reporter could steer the conversation round to food, Sin proffered the rice rolled in dried laver with tuna, pecan-flavored milk and a ham and cheese sandwich she was balancing with both hands. It would be too early to draw any conclusions, but she explains, "It just so happens that I chose a story about eating among plenty of stories in my mind. By the way, the movie I'm working on right now is about eating as well. This time, it's about zombies eating human flesh".

Ordinary viewers may not have heard of Sin, but inside the industry she was known as a genius -- or troublemaker -- from the start for her knack of finding fresh symbols and imagery to express human desire. Her life has been as remarkable as her work. She studied for the bar exam "like everyone else" and actually passed the first test. She never took the second. Then she started writing novels, just for fun. While she says she was "pretty good" she couldn't find a publisher, and since she did not want her newly found talent to go to waste, she went and studied filmmaking. And there she found her true calling.

"I'm curious about anything, even the oddest things. Even now that I can't possibly know what I'll get interested in next", she says. But work is hard. "It's so painful to produce an independent movie and the pain is the only one that I can enjoy". She says it is a shame that independent movies, which potentially give more pleasure to viewers, go away without a chance to be shown in the theaters. In the case of her own movie, Shin is going out on a limb. "I'll give a refund to viewers who say my movie was boring". But then she qualifies: only if viewers are bored by something that was her fault.

"Shin Sung-il is Lost" was first shown at Pusan International Film Festival. Produced and directed by Shin, it won the Berliner Zeitung Readers' Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.

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