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National Tragedy Becomes Personal in Director Kim's 'Crossing'

2008/06/27 Source

Director Kim Tae-gyoon looked satisfied; the anxiety and tension so apparent just a few months ago had vanished. "This is the first time that I've ever been told 'thank you' by viewers since I made my debut in 1996", he said softly, his voice cracking, in an interview with the Chosun Ilbo.

Kim's latest work, "Crossing", opens this week. Starring Cha In-pyo as a North Korean man and Shin Myung-chul as his son, the film delves into the dismal realities of North Korean human rights and refugees. It is a tragic drama about a man who escapes a North Korean mining village to search for medicine for his dying wife, but keeps failing to reunite with his family.

As recently as March it was unclear whether "Crossing" would get to be shown in theaters. But as glowing reports about special screenings, including one at the U.S. Library of Congress, began to spread, public attention blossomed. After viewing the film, a priest told Kim that he felt as if his conscience had experienced a "solemn torture". He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to appreciate the value of human rights and dignity, although it was a painful truth to watch.

The hardest thing for Kim in producing the movie was to depict "reality". Although it is not at all unusual for a filmmaker to be concerned with realism and truthful details, Kim had to give extraordinary thought to such issues since his work deals with the situation in North Korea. "I feel proud that North Korean refugees have acknowledged the movie", he said. "But it only shows a tenth of what is really happening in North Korea. If I had tried to depict the country as it really is, few people could bear to watch it".

"Crossing" has a special significance for Kim himself. The setting of the movie, the North's Hamgyong Province, is his late father's home. His uncle embraced him after watching the film, Kim said shyly. "Frankly speaking, what the North Korean leaders are doing is tantamount to holding its people hostage to threaten the world", he said. "It's a sin to let North Koreans starve to death".

It may be an audacious move to release "Crossing" at this time when summer blockbusters are sweeping theaters. But viewing the film would allow one to understand the meaning of "solemn torture". It's a torture one should be obliged to suffer, and not regret.

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