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German company eyes co-producing movie about composer Yun Isang

2005/04/21 Source

Two producers from a leading German art-house film company visited Seoul this week to discuss a movie project about the life of world-renowned composer Yun Isang, a Korean native who was abducted and imprisoned by a past authoritarian government.

Pandora Film, an independent film production, marketing and distribution company, co-produced the popular South Korean film "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... And Spring" by director Kim Ki-duk. It invested 300 million won ($295,799) in the 1.3-billion-won film project.

The German company is keen on teaming up again with its South Korean partner LJ Film to produce a film about Yun for worldwide release in 2007.

"The movie itself is much more connected to Germany (than the film by Kim Ki-duk). This is a movie which will be made with strong German-Korean content. So our involvement (in the new movie) I think will be bigger in terms of all matters", Karl Baumgartner, president and producer of Pandora said Tuesday.

Yun Isang

Baumgartner said the dramatic life of a famous Korean musician who studied in Japan and chose Germany as his second home is very unique and international subject matter for a movie.

LJ Film is currently in negotiation with Kadokawa Holdings Inc., a leading Japanese book-publishing and film company, about its participation in the film project, whose total production cost is estimated at 8 billion won.

It also plans to seek North Korean cooperation to shoot part of the film in Pyongyang. If realized, LJ Film will become the first South Korean film studio to film in the communist state's capital.

Baumgartner said the film will become an "international sensation" if it is made as a South-North Korean, German and probably Japanese co-production or cooperation project as planned.

"As far as I remember, there was never something like a South Korean-North Korean-German film", he said, laughing.

Tentatively titled "The Wounded Dragon", the movie about Isang Yun is planned as part of various programs by the private Isang Yun Peace Foundation to shed new light on the life of the Korean-German composer, with this year marking the 10th anniversary of his death.

Born in 1917, Yun was at the peak of his celebrity as a composer in Europe when he was abducted and taken from Berlin to Seoul by the South Korean secret police in 1967.

He was tortured and charged for visiting North Korea and allegedly being a member of a North Korean spy ring based in Berlin. In a political show trial, he was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1969 after international protests. In 1971 he became a German citizen. He died of pneumonia in November 1995.

Lee Seung-jae, head of LJ Film, says the movie will revolve around the 1967 spy incident, which critics claim was fabricated by the past government to oppress South Korean democracy activists living overseas.

"We will focus on the tragic drama made when the life of an artist is entangled in an ideological row, rather than following the whole life story", he said.

As for the growing South Korean film industry, another Pandora producer, Raimond Goebel, called recent developments a "miracle". "Up to five years ago, film from South Korea was practically not existing except for works by director Im Kwon-taek, for instance. But Korean films have made a huge success via (film) festivals".

He said the influence of South Korean films in the world market will increase in the future only if South Korea does not allow the commercial aspects to prevail over the cultural aspects. "What is interesting is diversity, not everything the same".

Goebel praised world acclaimed South Korean director Kim Ki-duk for "having a unique talent to bring something he is pondering about immediately to a story".

Baumgartner called him "one of the 20 most important living directors in the world. He is one of the most existing and most inspiring directors.

Young German directors go to see his movies because from him, they're inspiring by the way how he develops stories", he said.

"Spring... " by Kim, produced for only 1.3 billion won ($1.28 million), has raked in over $9 million in worldwide box office receipts, according to LJ Film. The budget of 1.3 billion won is low even in South Korea, where the average production cost for a film reached $3.49 million last year. (Yonhap)

By Shim Sun-ah

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