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[Movie 2014] Han Gong Ju 한공주

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Han Gong Ju 한공주
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[*]
[*]Director: Lee Su-Jin[*]Writer: Lee Su-Jin[*]Producer: Vill Lee Film Company[*]Cinematographer: Hong Jae-Sik[*]World Premiere: October 4, 2013 (Busan International Film Festival)[*]Release Date: April 17, 2014[*]Runtime: 112 min.[*]Language: Korean[*]Country: South Korea

Han Gong-Ju (Chun Woo-Hee) is taken to a home in an unfamiliar area. The home belongs to her former high school teacher's mother. The mother wants to know why her son is leaving Han Gong-Ju there, even if he promises she will be there for only a week. An investigation is ongoing back in Han Gong-Ju's hometown. Can Han Gong-Ju escape from her past?

Source: AsianWiki.com

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'Han Gong-ju' Wins At FestivalBy Kim Hee-eun, Korea Joongang Daily, February 4, 2014
Director Lee Su-jin’s debut film “Han Gong-ju” has won one of 15 Hivos Tiger Awards at the 43rd edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The awards recognize films that “give young filmmakers a voice” and “push boundaries.” 

Along with Lee, the Japanese film “Anatomy of a Paper Clip” by director Ikeda Akira and the Swedish film “Something Must Break” by director Ester Martin Bergsmark were also honored. 
“A skillfully crafted and highly accomplished debut,” the festival jury said about Lee’s film. “Deviating from classicist structure, this film lures the spectator to participate in the pleasures of storytelling through an extraordinary and intricate narrative puzzle.” 
Lee Su-jin is the fifth Korean filmmaker to win the award, following Hong Sang-soo in 1997 for “The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well,” Park Chan-wook in 2003 for “Jealousy Is My Middle Name,” Yang Ik-june in 2009 for “Breathless” and Park Jung-bum in 2011 for “The Journals of Musan.” 
 “Han Gong-ju” made its premier at the Busan International Film Festival in October. In addition to the two prizes it picked up in Busan, it also won the Golden Star top prize at the Marrakech International Film Festival in December. 
 “Han Gong-ju” is supposed to come out later in 2014, although no date has been set yet.
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 3454_han-gong-ju-640.jpg itemprop="description" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; font-weight: normal; font-size: 28px; line-height: 28px; font-family: arial, sans-serif; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);"Secrets sing out in exceptional Korean drama.HAN GONG-JU REVIEW / RUSSELL EDWARDS

As one of the English copy editors of the Busan Film Festival catalogue, I was disturbed by the fact that nearly every film synopsis I was sent to proof-read revealed the film’s ending. In an effort to protect the public, I often cut such information but it meant that I knew the outcome of roughly 30 percent of the movies showing in Busan this year. Fortunately, Korean drama Han Gong-ju was not one of the films to come across my editing desk. As a result, I was completely unprepared for this tale of a troubled Korean schoolgirl that turned out to be the most emotionally devastating film since Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock rocked my world in 2010. 

The film begins with the title character (played by Chun Woo-hee, one of the background alumni of the superb 2010 hit Sunny) being suddenly transferred out of her school and into the care of one of her teachers. Urgency and secrecy being of the essence, he stashes Gong-ju at his mother’s house for “one week”. The teacher’s mother (Lee Young-ran) isn’t thrilled with the inconvenience of babysitting a teenage girl and strongly suspects that the girl has been “knocked up”. Furthermore, the fifty-something woman wants to ensure that nothing interferes with her new romantic relationship with a local police chief. 

While the teacher’s mother is distrustful, as far as the audience is concerned, Gong-ju remains an enigma. A series of fleeting flashbacks gives the audience little information. During a police interview, the girl merely says that music is “like a religion” to her and that she “doesn’t think she did anything wrong”.

As to what has actually transpired, the director keeps viewers guessing as he asks them to absorb Gong-ju’s current circumstances. Peeks into Gong-ju’s past remain oblique as the ‘brief’ visit with the teacher’s mother stretches into several weeks and the teenager settles into her new school. Though classmates know nothing of the new student’s background, Gong-ju nevertheless gathers the attention of the school’s a cappella club when group leader (Jung In-sung, the grown-up little girl from the end of Memories of Murder) hears unselfconsciously Gong-ju sing to herself with the voice of an angel and wants the newcomer to join their choir. 

As the newcomers probe Gong-ju for information, the narrative occasionally slips back into the past to focus on a female friend, Hwa-ok (Kim so-young), and a boy named Doon-yoon. Gong-ju had worked in the convenience store run by Doon-yoon’s father and as the boy is being bullied into stealing from his own father’s store, the protagonist is caught in the double-bind of not wanting to aggravate the boy’s predicament and not wanting to get blamed for missing stock stolen.

The film manoeuvres around its central secret, but is never coy. One hour into this film, its emotional centre remains elusive, but as hints and information fragments accumulate, each sliver of truth proves to be more devastating than its predecessor. By the film’s end, members of the Busan Film Festival audience – including this reviewer – were openly weeping. While, thankfully, the experiences of the central character are outside most people’s experience, the film offers a snapshot of that psychological space where an individual can be stranded between the creative impulse that often finds its genesis in trauma – hence the healing power of art – and the binding shame (often externally induced by guilty parties or wider society) that inhibits the creative act or any other mode of expression. While the details of Gong-ju’s issues are particular, the anxiety she feels around being creative, and therefore visible and vulnerable, is common enough to strike a collective nerve. It’s a mark of many successful artists (and exhibitionists) that they live shamelessly (i.e. without shame) and so are able to freely create or perform because they have a psychological schism that prevents them from feeling the pain of the shameful experiences that may have compelled them to create in the first place.

Wherever the impetus came from for debut writer/director Vill Lee (aka Lee Su-jin) to create this traumatic tale, his execution is dextrous, even crafty. Surprisingly, this is not only Lee’s debut film, but in fact the writer/director is scheduled to return to university to finish his film degree.

Chun Woo-hee is superb in the title role. As Gong-ju, Chun catches every nuance of panic and pain that a teenage girl stripped of all standard forms of emotional and psychological support would experience. From the film’s supporting cast, particularly impressive is the performance of Lee Young-ran as the unwilling landlady who finds herself the custodian of this teenager. Lee manages to seamlessly steer her character from someone who gradually accepts and understands her. 

The film’s only identifiable flaw is that its title – the central character’s name – will be a puzzling turn-off to international sales. With Gong-ju’s meaning of princess and the name of Han meaning one (presumably as in one of many), the title has a dark irony in Korean that will be lost on Western audiences. (Korean film buffs will also note that the name is identical to that of Moon So-ri’s disabled woman in Lee Chang-dong’s landmark Oasis.) The film may collect an English-language title when it inevitably picks up a sales agent (at the moment the director is handling everything himself), but here’s hoping that they don’t decide on something too self-explanatory like The Great Train Robbery or too generic likeThe Accused.

Korean cinema continues from strength to strength. As revered upper echelons of Korean movie royalty like Park Chan-wook and Bong Joon-ho move into bloated and increasingly pointless fare such as Stoker and Snowpiercer, it is exciting and reassuring that Korean cinema is still producing emerging directors who deserve attention and that this next generation haven’t forgotten that there are important stories to tell.SOURCE

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Excerpt from an interview with the director on ScreenDaily.com

South Korean director Lee Su-Jin’s feature debut is the story of small town girl who is sent to a different school in a remote city after being involved in a horrific incident.

“This film wasn’t based on a particular incident. Rather, there were many reasons for making this film, and many incidents,” the director reflects.

“I was haunted by many cases of gang rapes, teenage suicides, school bullying, etc for a long time.”

Making the film was, Lee say, his gesture of support to girls like Han Gong-Ju.

Casting the right girl was crucial to the success of the film. While preparing the project, the director watched audition clips for another film. Chun Woohee’s was among them and he was immediately struck by the girl’s sensitivity and intelligence. He therefore asked her to read for the role.

“I remember that she had tried very much to express herself as the actual character from beginning of the audition until the end. I also liked the fact that none of her previous roles were similar to this one. And one of main reasons (for casting her) was that she has a face that makes her look familiar.”

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Han Gong Ju has been entered in competition at the 16th Deauville Asian Film Festival which will be held from March 5 through March 9 in France.
(Photo from Deauxville Film Festival Facebook Page)1506052_754718264539617_226306520_n.jpg

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Han Gong-ju won three awards at the Deauville Film Festival: the Audience Award, the Critics Award and the Jury Award.
(Photo from Deauxville Film Festival Facebook Page)
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'Han Gong-ju' grabs 3 awards

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The Korean film "Han Gong-ju", directed by Lee Su-jin, won the Jury's Award at the 16th Deauville Asian Film Festival in France, held on Saturday local time.

The Jury's Award is the second-best prize after the Best Film award at the festival. Also, Lee's film won two other awards - one from critics and one from the public.

"Han Gong-ju" is a coming-of-age story about a high school student, Gong-ju, who loses her friend in a gang rape incident and is pressured to transfer to another school by the perpetrators' parents.

Before winning multiple awards in France, "Han Gong-ju" took the top prize - the Tiger Award - at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, one of the world's most prestigious awards for independent films.

By Jin Eun-soo, contributing writer

Source : koreajoongangdaily.jo...

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Director Lee Su-jin's "Han Gong-ju" is in the competing section of Fribourg International Film Festival.

"Han Gong-ju" is about the growth of a teenage girl who loses a friend to an accident and moves to another school.

This movie was awarded the Citizen Review Award at the 18th Busan International Film Festival, the Golden Star award at the 13th Mirakeshi International Film Festival and the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival. It was also chosen for the Judges' Award, International Critics Award and Audience Award at the 16th Deauville Asian Film Festival.

Director Martin Scorsese said, ""Han Gong-ju" is outstanding in Mise-en scene, image, sound, editing and performance. I have a lot to learn from this movie and I can't wait to see Lee Su-jin's next film".

French actress Marion Cortillard said, "So much detail and the actress was amazing".

Fribourg International Film Festival introduces Latin American and Asian movies. Lee Chang-dong's"Poetry" was awarded the grand prize in 2011 and Kim Tae-yong's "Late Autumn - 2010" was awarded a prize as well.

"Han Gong-ju" will be released next month.

Source : www.dailian.co.kr/new... http://www.hancinema.net/martin-scorsese-talks-about-han-gong-ju-67036.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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I want to watch this movie. The reviews made me curious. I am not familiar with the actress Chun Woo Hee but I think we will heard more about her in the future.

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Anger grabs center stage in acclaimed film ‘Han Gong-ju’

Mar 28,2014article.aspx?aid=29870410
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Lee Su-jin’s “Hang Gong-ju” tells the tale of a 17-year-old girl who struggles in the wake of a tragedy. Provided by Movie Collage
Anger was the most powerful emotion that gripped filmmaker Lee Su-jin as he filmed “Han Gong-ju,” the tragic tale of a teenage gang rape victim.

“I wondered whether my anger was righteous, or something I’d forget about after a few days,” said Lee at a press screening on Wednesday.

And when he was done dissecting the first response to such a heinous crime, Lee pondered how he’d behave “if victims like that turned up in my life, what could I offer them?” 

This rhetoric is something that Lee hopes viewers will ask themselves when the film opens on April 17.

Lee offers a wide range of characters for audiences to relate to - confused classmates, the guilt-ridden, haughty parents and the timid victim, who gets by most days without making much sound. 

Weaving in and out of the 17-year-old’s past and present, viewers are allowed to see snippets of the story, but the inner turmoil of the titular character is never fully grasped.

After all, she isn’t given any support and the only person who dispenses advice tells her that her “innocence” in the matter is not relevant and that she should just move on, with or without any support. 

“It’s ironic and on purpose that a girl with a name that translates to ‘One Princess’ lives a life that is anything like royalty,” said Lee.

But the tragic lot of Gong-ju has already won over the hearts of many around the world, with the film having won seven awards at film festivals in Rotterdam, Busan, Deauville and Marrakech.

Lee’s depiction on a hand-held camera of the aftermath “for that intimate, young-girl vibe” seems to have worked, even with the gaps that remain unfilled and uncertainty in every frame.

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Actresses Kim So-young, Chun Woo-hee, Jung In-sung along with the director Lee Su-jin hope the film will encourage the public to examine sexual abuse from a different perspective. Provided by Movie Collage
“The moment I read the script, I knew it was the role for me,” said Chun Woo-hee, who plays the 17-year-old who had to relocate to a new school in hopes of wiping the terrible incident from her memory. 

To pull off the aloof lead role, a girl who seems at a tipping point, Chun said she stopped overanalyzing and let her gestures speak. 

“I thought I needed to act in a way to make the viewers think rather than putting it altogether for them,” she said.

It seems that Chun has done a great job, as French actress Marion Cotillard reportedly described her performance as “amazing” while Martin Scorsese also raved about the film at the Marrakech Film Festival, where the film took the best film award.

When asked if the project was easy for a male director, Lee said that it wasn’t particularly grueling, although he did count on the help of women for insights he might have missed.

“From things like the way high schoolers put on their lip balm, I’d ask about things like that,’ said Lee, who consulted with his wife and his actresses over every detail. 

“If you were her, would you have done that or this?”

While Lee paints a clear picture of the failings of a society in which the victim is powerless, the director said he wasn’t blaming any particular institution or segment of society.

“I can’t really pinpoint just one thing,” he said, but was hopeful that his film would start a “much needed” discourse.

Although Lee said he based his film on several sex crimes against minors, his film bears the strongest resemblance to the infamous 2004 Miryang case, where a 14-year-old girl and later her younger sister and cousin were sexually abused by 41 high school boys over a one-year period. 

The hostile reaction to the girls from their small community was what shocked most people, as the victims were apparently threatened by the boys’ families and townspeople for “shaming” their community. The way the police and other authorities handled the situation sparked many protests at the time.

By CARLA SUNWOO, Korea Joongang Dailyhttp://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2987041

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[Herald Review] ‘Han Gong-ju’: It’s sink or swim

Lee Su-jin’s award-winning film about teen gang rape victim strong and compelling

March 30 2014
There is no doubt that filmmaker Lee Su-jin’s feature debut “Han Gong-ju” is a rare cinematic achievement. 

It is visually and textually strong, musically appealing, and deals with its difficult subject matter ― a story about a teenage gang rape victim ― with sensitivity and nuance. 

Yet its artistic accomplishments aside, including seven trophies from Rotterdam, Marrakech, Busan and Deauville, one question remains to be answered: Can we separate this film from the real-life 2004 Miryang gang rape case, in which 44 male high school students in Miryang, Gyeongsang Province, raped three middle school girls and two high school girls on multiple occasions over a year? 

“Han Gong-ju” isn’t the first Korean film to have dealt with teenage rape victims since the 2004 incident. Kim Yong-han’s 2012 crime drama “Don’t Cry, Mommy,” inspired by the 2004 case, was about a mother’s revenge against the rapists that attacked her daughter, who had committed suicide. 

Lee Chang-dong’s 2010 film “Poetry” was about an old, impoverished woman who learns her teenage grandson was involved in the gang rape of a school girl in her rural town. The victim in Lee’s film, too, reacted by killing herself. 

Han Gong-ju, the film’s protagonist, played impeccably by Chun Woo-hee, does not end her life. Instead, she learns how to swim. After practically being forced to leave her hometown where the attack took place, she starts a new life in a new city. 

20140330000055_0.jpgImages of water and Gong-ju’s mouth, while struggling not to drown, are deftly woven into the film’s non-linear narrative ― where flashbacks reveal her traumatic past, including Gong-ju’s friend, another rape victim, jumping off a bridge. In the scene, Gong-ju helplessly watches her friend’s dead body being pulled out of the water. For her, literally, life is either sink or swim. What fills the screen is her willingness to live, not her despair. 

One of the most impressive achievements of the film is Chun’s performance as Gong-ju, who is resilient, hopeful and talented ― her noticeable talent in music leads to another tragedy in the film ― while clearly tormented by her secret. 

Chun never overplays the role; she never gets explosive with her emotions. The actress’ understated performance, however, adds important resonance to the film, when she does little things on her own, such as singing alone in the shower, cleaning her desk, and playing her guitar in an empty classroom.

“Han Gong-ju” never states that it was inspired by the 2004 incident. But the correlations between the film and case are undeniable. When Eun-hee, Gong-ju’s friend at her new school, asks her if she’s ever been kissed ― a typical teenage moment ― Gong-ju, after a painful pause, says she has been some 40 times, which tallies with the number of offenders in the real-life Miryang case. 

The unjust indignity Gong-ju suffers because of the senseless and shameless parents of the rapists, as well as her alcoholic father ― whose self-interest is more important to him than the safety and dignity of his daughter ― are all inevitably reminiscent of the stories of the victims in the Miryang case, some of whom could not finish school and went missing.

Regardless of its obvious cinematic achievement, it’s questionable whether the real-life victims, whose rapists threatened to upload video footage of the assault online, would have agreed to the existence of this film, as well as its reconstruction of the hard-to-watch crime. 

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com) |  Korea Herald

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[*]HAN GONG-JU Leads Finecut Sales Ahead of FilMart[*]
[*]by Pierce Conran /  Mar 27, 2014
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Korean Distrib Locks Multiple Deals  

Finecut Co. Ltd, an international sales outfit for Korean film, announced a slew of deals that were sealed ahead of this year’s Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FilMart). 
Leading the company’s slate was LEE Su-jin’s breakout indie debut Han Gong-ju, which, fresh from its multiple at awards at the Deauville Asian Film Festival and top prizes from the Marrakesh and Rotterdam International Film Festivals, sold to Dissidenz Films, Third Window Films and Mediatres Studio for France, the UK and Spain, respectively. The latter also picked up YEON Sangho’s dark animation The Fake. 
Courtroom drama The Attorney, starring SONG Kang-ho, sold to Joint Entertainment International Inc. in Taiwan, which also bought LEESONG Hee-il’s Night Flight (screening at the concurrent Hong Kong International Film Festival), and Edko Films Ltd. for Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. The film was a big hit in Korea, drawing over 11.4 million spectators to theaters. 
Red Family, a film produced and written by KIM Ki-duk which debuted at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, locked deals with Gaga Corporation in Japan and Astro Group for Southeast Asia. KIM Ki-duk’s Moebius added Finland and Sweden to its international markets after scoring a deal with Njutafilms. Among upcoming films, the Bong Joon Ho-produced Sea Fog was picked up by Filmware International Co. Ltd for Taiwan.
credit koreanfilm

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Director of HAN GONG-JU Shares Behind-the-Scenes Look at Film Festival Sceneby LEE Su-jin /  Mar 10, 2014From Marrakech to Rotterdam… Overview of International Film Festivals nMBdMMSdqEmSzxFlFIxW.jpg
 Newcomer LEE Su-jin, who has attracted a great deal of attention with his tale of a girl dreaming of a new life after escaping from her worst nightmare in HAN Gong-ju, delivers a behind-the-scenes look at the international film festival scene. HAN Gong-ju’s first international showcase in MarrakechxrMQVHOjuTjnQdKlFTrL.jpg 

HAN Gong-ju had its first international film festival showcase at the Palais des Congres, a marble-decorated theater with a capacity of 1,500, to an audience which included the likes of Martin Scorsese, PARK Chan-wook, Marion Cotillard and Paolo Sorrentino. My gaze was fixed on the back of the jurors’ heads who were sitting barely two meters away, from a seat I was assigned to as if the festival was offering an opportunity for me to keep an eye on them. I had an extremely special experience during my second screening with the people of Marrakech. People cried out loud during provocative scenes and the audience on the lower floor would laugh in return. Others tried to shush the noise, but to no avail. I cringed with embarrassment, but found it impossible to leave during the screening. Fortunately, halfway through the film, the audience seemed to slowly get into the film and it was when the screening was over and people stood up to leave that an interesting thing happened. The theater manager who offered to escort me back to my hotel suddenly dragged me to the lobby where a crowd of people who had just watched my film had gathered.  I was told they were waiting for the director of HAN Gong-ju whom they were told had attended the screening. That night, with the manager’s help, I took turns taking photos with the audience. Moroccans are said to seek the theater to release all the stress from their everyday lives and that is why they prefer Bollywood films in general. Perhaps HAN Gong-ju was an uncomfortable and difficult film for them. Considering that they may have shouted out due to the unfamiliar and heavy atmosphere in the theater, I was more than grateful that they took the time to watch HAN Gong-ju.  bAOuriCFozIfCmPODcPo.jpg

As the festival was coming to an end, I attended the awards ceremony where a hoard of cameras and crowds flocked to see directors and actors arriving at the venue. The awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and the Jury Award were announced in sequence. The Jury Award went to a Cuban filmmaker whom I said hello to during lunch and the Best Director Award went to an American filmmaker I met at a party. Despite the encounters being brief, it felt good that familiar faces were receiving the awards. The Grand Prize announcement was coming up and filmmaker Martin Scorsese stood before the microphone. He explained that this year’s films in competition were of high quality, and demonstrated that the future of film is bright. Next came the announcement. “HAN Gong-ju BY LEE SU-JIN!” Just the thought of it now has me shaking all over again. During the afterparty, Martin Scorsese commended my film and said that he couldn’t wait to see my next one. When I asked him: “I wonder if my friends will believe what you just said,” he replied with “Then let’s take a picture together” and struck a pose with me.  Palm Springs and Memorable Q&A 
The most memorable thing about the Palm Springs International Film Festival was the first Q&A I attended. Audience members mostly asked about Korea’s legal system. Although the film wasn’t about the law, I think that they felt that the main issue of the film laid within the legal system. Even after the Q&A, there were a few people who came up to me to ask questions and among them was Barry, a professor at AFI who told me he came all the way from LA to watch my film and also added that he was a big fan of Korean films, especially those of filmmaker HONG Sangsoo. At my last Q&A, I exchanged friendly greetings with audience members who already attended the previous screening but came again. Like in Marrakech, there were people in this festival who quietly came up to me to express their feelings about the film. International Film Festival Rotterdam
I was informed of my invite to the International Film Festival Rotterdam through e-mail. My short film Son’s was invited to Rotterdam in 2006. But since the film was screened without my being present, I was thrilled by this new invitation.  After the premiere screening on January 29th a Q&A was held where I received many questions about the HAN Gong-ju’s pain as well as how the film was conceived, why I structured it the way I did, the visual style and the actors. I was worried about the second screening held the next day but was pleasantly surprised to see people attending despite the biting wind outside. Right before the awards ceremony on the 31st, I attended a dinner held in honor of the directors in competition. I gobbled down delicious food and wine which I haven’t had in a long time and although Screen Daily journalist Jean NOH advised me not to drink too much, as we had to leave for the awards ceremony, it was too late as I had already had one too many. As if we were friends going for a second round, we all walked merrily to the ceremony venue. Jean NOH asked “Aren’t you nervous?” to which I replied “I’m already too drunk (to be nervous), I’ll just clap hard.” As I entered the venue, HONG Hyo-sook, the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) programmer, snuck up to me and jokingly said “Su-jin, you didn’t bring your camera,” before walking away. The award winners were called one after the other and only the Hivos Tiger Awards, which would be awarded to three filmmakers, were left.  The first award went to Japanese director IKEDA Akira’s Anatomy of a Paper Clip, and the next to Swedish director Ester Martin Bergsmark’s Something Must Break. Right as I was anticipating clapping for the last winner, not expecting to win myself, the last film was announced… “And the last winner is HAN Gong-ju by LEE Su-jin.”   One thing I felt in Rotterdam was the carefree spirit of the festival. It was a film festival that existed for the audience and cinema, and also one that deserved the word ‘independent.’ I think the kindness of the Dutch will remain in my memory for a long time.
YqOAaJSaojLFJXPGloaB.jpg By LEE Su-jin(Filmmaker)  | korean film

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Busan Showcase Announced in Berlinby Pierce Conran  /  Mar 31, 2014Korean Indies from Top Fest Screen in Germany
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 A selection of Korean independent film from the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) will screen in Germany next month at the 3rd Korean Cinema Today film festival which will run from April 24th to May 4th. 10 feature films from BIFF will screen at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Opening the event will be LEE Su-jin’s redhot feature debut Han Gong-ju, which earned the CGV MovieCollage Award and Citizen’s Reviewers Prize in Busan before earning top honors at the Marrakesh and Rotterdam International Film Festivals and a trio of awards from the recent Deauville Asian Film Festival. Also screening will be YEON Sangho’s successful sophomore animation The Fake, which premiered in the Vanguard section of the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Other films include KIM Jae-han’s Thuy, JUNG Yoon-suk’s Non-Fiction Diary and a remastered version of LEE Man-hee’s classic Black Hair (1964). Attending the event in Germany will be directors LEE Su-jin, KIM Jae-han and JUNG Yoon-suk, as well as BIFF programmers HONG Hyo-sook and CHO Young-jung, for a panel on ‘New Currents in Korean Cinema – Politics, Gender and Filmmaking.’
credit koreanfilm.or.kr

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‘Han Gong-ju’ wins top prize in Fribourg

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Lee Su-Jin
After winning seven trophies from Rotterdam, Marrakech, Busan and Deauville, Korean helmer Lee Su-jin’s award-winning feature debut “Han Gong-ju” nabbed another award this month, this time at the Festival International de Films de Fribourg.

The film, which tells the tragic tale of a teenage gang rape victim, had its world premiere at the Marrakech International Film Festival in November, where it won its first international prize, given by a jury headed by Martin Scorsese.

Born in 1977, Lee made short film “Papa” in 2004, which was presented at BIFF in 2005. Another short, “Enemy’s Apple,” won two prizes at the Mise-en-scene Short Film Festival in 2007. 

Its cinematic accomplishments aside, the film is also noted for its resemblance with the notorious 2004 Miryang gang rape case, in which 44 male high school students in Miryang, South Gyeongsang Province, raped three middle school girls and two high school girls on multiple occasions for over a year.

The film is scheduled to open here on April 17.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com) | April 6 2014 | orea Herald

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Chun Woo-hee, forgettable no more

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The recently released film “Han Gong-ju” tells the story of a female high school student named Gong-ju. She is trying hard to forget a terrible memory from her past, but society is cruel and unforgiving, and the girl is forced to continue her suffering. 

The film itself is unique, but what makes it more remarkable is actress Chun Woo-hee, 27, who plays the titular role. The small film, which opened on April 17, spent its first week climbing the box office rankings, going from sixth to fourth as of Tuesday, according to the Korean Film Council. 

With the film, it may seem like Chun has emerged out of nowhere to become a leading actress, but in fact she has been acting steadily for years, including in the hit “Sunny” (2011) and, more recently, in “Elegant Lies” (2013). 

Often in movies, a female high school student is depicted as a delicate innocent, the kind of girl that audiences want to embrace. But Han Gong-ju, as played by Chun, goes further. She gets physically and mentally violated by her male classmates and loses her best friend. Her family is in such dire straits that she cannot live with her parents, so is sent off to live with others. 

She lives day by day as if she doesn’t exist, trying not to create any ripples or irritate the family she’s living with. Whenever she has to move, she desperately tries to erase all traces of herself, but at the same time she wishes that someone might connect with her, to prove that her life has meaning. Gong-ju is so pale that she looks like she could collapse at the slightest touch. 

Chun says the character felt like “my role” from the start. 

“I read the script and I felt that I could do this,” said Chun. “I had a strong feeling that I could play the role well. What worried me was whether I’d be too absorbed into the character and not be able to get out of it.” 

Acting that is technically excellent can really stand out, sometimes to the detriment of a film - like how a singer who sings “technically well” can overwhelm a song with a flurry of high, difficult notes. But Chun says that’s not the way she wants to act. 

“If you act to make a display, it can make the audience uncomfortable,” she said. “You know, there are actors who seem to act so well, but you don’t really become fond of them. With the character Gong-ju, I felt I should not play the role in such a way.” 

On the big screen, Chun, while playing Gong-ju, gazes blankly at the camera. Despite her expression, emotions sway in her eyes. That’s the type of character that Chun has interpreted in her own way. It’s not technically perfect, but an entirely different kind of acting. 

When the film portrays the terrible incident at the heart of Gong-ju’s story, the director carefully follows Gong-ju’s trembling voice, expressions and emotions. It’s a process that reveals not only Gong-ju’s suffering but also her will to live. She’s been terribly hurt, but at her core is a fierce determination. Chun describes Gong-ju as “a very strong girl.” 

“Instinctively, Gong-ju has a strong will to live,” said Chun. “She bravely stands up and wants to start again. That was really impressive for me.” 

“Han Gong-ju” is a movie that’s full of thoughtfulness, but at the same time it is very brutal. Gong-ju is a character who feels everything is beyond her capacity. She looks like she’s going to collapse at any time and, even though she is the victim of a crime, she suffers from a sense of guilt. Gong-ju had a friend named Hwa-ok who died, and from then on the ghost of Hwa-ok follows Gong-ju around everywhere, like a shadow. Watching it is tough for the audience. Chun also says that’s the part when she felt overwhelmed. 

“In every scene that related to Hwa-ok, I had trouble acting,” said Chun. “That’s because I was torn apart. There’s a scene where Gong-ju talks about Hwa-ok out loud for the first time. She talks about her in a casual manner, but when I imagined what it would’ve been like for her to bring that up, my heart aches,” said Chun tearfully. “This film leaves behind so many afterimages.”

Despite high praise for her acting from audiences, Chun says director Lee Su-jin never complimented her. 

“Director Lee, I believe, is not a person who talks out loud about his emotions,” said Chun. “When he says ‘Hmm, that’s good,’ that’s his highest praise. 

“Often he made me reshoot a scene saying ‘again,’ but he never explained why. That somewhat made me reserve some energy when acting a scene because I knew he would keep on saying ‘again.’ So I asked him to tell me the reason why we were redoing the scene, because I wanted to give it my all when I was acting. When I told him that, he said ‘Hmm, all right.’ But, of course, when we started to shoot again, he just said ‘again’ once more,” said Chun, chuckling. “So I gave up.”

Chun thinks the reason why Lee decided to cast her is because of the song she sang in the audition. 

“He asked me to sing any song I wanted,” said Chun. “So I sang Lee Sun-hee’s ‘Fate.’ I can’t remember how I sang it, but he began to record my singing. I heard later on that whenever he met acquaintances, he played the recording and said, ‘It’s good, isn’t it?’?”

Chun has appeared in numerous films before, but she didn’t leave much of an impression with audiences. People often said they had seen her face but could not recall where. Certainly, she has taken roles in some high-profile films, appearing in supporting roles in Bong Joon-ho’s “Mother” (2009) Kang Hyung-chul’s “Sunny” (2011). 

More recently, she had a supporting role in “Elegant Lies,” which was released in March. Directed by Lee Han, Chun played Mi-ran, a friend of the lead character, who was played by Ko Ah-seong. 

“If I say I acted in ‘Sunny,’ people get surprised and ask me who I played,” said Chun. “When I tell them about playing the bully, they slap their lap and say ‘Ah!’ Even for me, when I look at movies that I appeared in, I have different faces. When I played Sang-mi, who is full of jealousy, she has this rock face. When I played Mi-ran [in ‘Elegant Lies’], she showed a different face.” 

Most actresses may find it distressing to be forgotten, but Chun seems mostly amused by it. “It’s fun seeing people having a hard time trying to remember where they saw me,” she said. 

“Isn’t it better? Because this way audiences won’t be bored with my face, even if I have a long career. Moreover, it’s good that I can walk around anywhere and not be recognized.”

For Chun’s acting, nothing seems awkward. The way she walks, the way she moves her hands, the way she opens her mouth to speak, they fit her character naturally. All actors memorize their lines, but having that extra something is what makes one really special. According to Chun, “it’s the result of fully mobilizing both the head and the body. 

“Even before I made a debut, many people asked me where I got the confidence to try this as a career,” she said. “I wasn’t as pretty as other actresses and didn’t have a great body. Plus I am relatively short. So my thinking was simple: I said to myself that I would show people what the essence of acting is.”

Of course Chun wants to be good at acting, but for her the best part of her career is the sense of freedom acting gives her.

“I haven’t had much experience in life,” said Chun. “I used to be very passive, so I tend to think more than I act. So I always had a thirst for freedom. Thankfully, I grew up with loving parents, but they always treated me like a child. I wanted to free myself from the ‘good daughter’ image and find my identity. I don’t want to sound grandiose about acting, but it certainly acts as a medium for me and this world. When I am acting, I really feel free.

“I was eager to cut loose when I got to college,” she continued. “But after a month, I was bored. It wasn’t much fun.” 

Although Chun describes herself as a “passive person,” she seems to have more boldness than she realizes. Many actresses are anxious to get opportunities to audition for roles in movies, but Chun says she has turned several down. 

“Some people asked me whether I have connections in the industry since I’ve turned down several auditions,” said Chun. “But I only want to play roles I feel something for. For roles I couldn’t feel anything, I turned them down, even though the opportunities came.” 

Chun even kept director Bong Joon-ho dangling for ages. When Chun was auditioning for his movie “Mother,” she said she didn’t really feel anxious about getting the role. 

“Some would think because it’s a director Bong movie, you have to get the role no matter what. But I didn’t really think that way. I felt, ‘if he picks me, that’s good news, but if he decides to pass on me, he must have a reason.’ I heard later on that when he saw me in the audition room, he wondered if I was interested in auditioning at all.”

Since then, directors seem to have noticed the charms of Chun. 

“After the shooting wraps, the directors that I’ve worked with have all told me that they want to work with me again,” said Chun. “I hope that was not just empty talk.”

Although Chun seems optimistic about everything, she says her feelings get hurt, too. 

“I get really hurt when people say that I was ‘used’ and that I was only cast for ‘functional purposes,’?” said Chun. “But I decided to think differently. If I was able to ‘function properly’ and fulfil the directors’ needs in a film, I’m satisfied with that.”

Chun, however, hopes this film to be referred to as her “representative work.” 

BY LEE EUN-SUN, KIM NA-HYUN [sharon@joongang.co.kr] | April 24 2014 | Korean JoongAng Daily

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