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Up close and personal with directors

2004/11/06 | 386 views | Permalink | Source

At the world's most prestigious film festival in Cannes, only the media has access to ask questions to such brilliant directors as Quinton Tarantino and Michael Moore.
But at Seoul's new and perhaps smallest film event which debuted this week, the audience had the opportunity to pick the brain of the recent recipient of the Cannes' Grand Prix, Park Chan-wook.

The "Old Boy" director had a special reason for attending the opening night of the first Ewha Film Festival, held at Ewha Woman's University from Nov. 2-4.

"It's my hope that at least one theater in Seoul will show everyday Korean films with Korean subtitles for the hearing impaired and English subtitles for the international community here", said Park.

The three-day festival's purpose was to screen Korean films with English subtitles and give non-Korean speakers an opportunity to understand a few of the industry's most successful and provocative movies.


from left: Park Chan-wook, Yim Soon-rye and Kim Dong-won

Each evening ended with a "Meet the Directors" session, in which Park and two other directors participated, namely Yim Soon-rye ("Waikiki Brothers" 2001) and documentary maker Kim Dong-won ("Repatriation" 2004).

Park was easily the most popular guest of the three, with the conference room filling up past its 250-person occupancy. The director began his career in the early 1990s but established his reputation after the record-breaking box office hit "JSA" (2000) and the critically praised "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" (2002).

The audience was most curious about his film's characters, who often entangle themselves in bloody situations throughout their quests. His use of violence and dark topics, such as revenge and incest, has become his signature style.

"Other films depict Korean society as if it has no social classes or any tension between them", said Park, explaining that he is trying to fill a gap in an industry that doesn't look at taboo subjects.

His characters must often undergo some type of mutilation and the audience wanted to know why this is a recurring motif.

"I think one of the scariest feelings is having a body part cut off. So this is a very effective way to express pain", Park said. He believes Korea has a unique advantage when telling violent stories because of the lack of guns used here. Often characters are stabbed or bludgeoned.

"So the action is very personal. Having to do it up close, the attacker shares the moment. He can feel the other person's pain".

Next week, Park will begin filming his new movie, "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance", an unrelated episode to his previous films, but connected to them in a vengeance theme trilogy, he said.

After watching the "Waikiki Brothers", which tells the story of a persistent musician trying to keep his band together at any cost, the audience quizzed its director.

The most alarming fact about Yim is that she is one of Korea's pioneering woman directors, and she made a few comments about her experience.

"People expect me to make movies about women. But many of my films are about men", she said. "Usually male directors portray men as very strong characters. But female directors often take a different perspective on men, which is good".

During the first 80 years of Korea's film history, there were only eight female directors, she said. But since 2001, at least 10 have become successful names in the business.

"The movie industry is finally realizing that a good portion of the audience are women. Just look at this crowd today", said Yim, referring to the large number of students from the women's university who came to the festival.

The event closed with Kim's tearful look the North Koreans' journey back to their homeland after being detained in the South's prisons for over 30 years. The project was a labor of love that took Kim nearly a decade to finish. "The Repatriation" was the most successful documentary ever in Korea.

Fans noted that his approach was unique, since he chose to let his narration dominate the storytelling.

"The film was not just about the North Koreans, but also about me and how my views of them formed", he said.

One foreigner in the audience, admitting to being a Korean film fanatic, said this was the only Korean documentary he has ever seen and wondered why the market was so difficult for documentaries.

"Before in the 1980s, the government prohibited filmmakers from making documentaries, due their censorship of the local media", said Kim. "Even today, there is not enough support".

For now, documentary makers show their works at film festivals, churches or other places besides movie theaters willing to have a screening.

"We have to create our own opportunities", he said.

By Andrew Petty

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