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[Movie 2016] MISSING: Lost Woman 미씽: 사라진여자 *NOW SHOWING

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December 7, 2016

(Movie Review) 'Missing': gritty story of motherhood and social ills

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- Motherhood is a theme that is often confined to the relationship between a mother and her child. But in "Missing," director Lee Eon-hee places it in the context of some of the most disturbing social phenomena of our time to produce a gripping film buoyed by the stunning performance of its female cast.

In the movie, Ji-seon (Uhm Ji-won) is a middle-class divorcee struggling to keep her job and custody of her 1-year-old daughter. To relieve some of her burden, she hires a Chinese nanny, Han-mae (Kong Hyo-jin), to look after her child while she is at work. What appeared to be the perfect arrangement for all sides turns into a tragedy when the baby suddenly disappears, along with her nanny.

In telling the story, director Lee builds the suspense by weaving together Ji-seon's flashbacks, testimonies by various people who knew Han-mae and witness accounts. In the process, the audience is transported to some of the darkest corners of society to face some uncomfortable truths. For instance, Ji-seon learns that Han-mae was once married to a Korean husband -- a reference to the often unhappy interracial marriages between South Korean men and Southeast Asian women.

There is also heavy reference to South Koreans' negative perceptions of the growing Chinese community in the country, with scenes of the back alleys of a Chinatown, trade in human organs and Ji-seon falling victim to voice phishing.

But most of all, there is a glaring warning of the consequences of the insurmountable gap between the haves and have-nots as the twisted fate between Ji-seon and Han-mae unfolds.

This image shows the official poster for "Missing." (Yonhap)

This image shows the official poster for "Missing." (Yonhap)

The story can be hard to follow at times unless one pays close attention to the details. In one sequence of scenes, the only way to distinguish between the past and present is to notice the difference in Ji-seon's hairstyle.

Uhm delivers one of her best performances yet as the fragile-looking but strong-willed mother who will do everything in her power to find her child. Through bouts of panic and fear, a mother's anxiety manifests itself in the trembling of the actress's body and the faltering of her voice, not to mention the shaking of her teary eyes.

Kong is mysterious as a Chinese woman of few words. Han-mae's inability to speak Korean fluently propels Kong to speak volumes with just her facial expressions and movements until her frustrations eventually explode in bursts of emotion.

The overall tone of the movie is rightfully dark and ominous. But there are brief moments of peace and calm that nicely offset the grim atmosphere, such as when Han-mae sits in a playground under the yellow leaves of fall.

That contrast goes some way to show that few things in life are as monochrome as they may first seem. Motherly love is no exception, and Lee proves it in this riveting take.

"Missing" opened in local theaters on Nov. 30.

hague@yna.co.kr

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December 12, 2016

Abduction Mystery Draws 1 Million Viewers

Source: The Chosun Ilbo

The film "Missing" has attracted over 1 million cinemagoers, less than two weeks since its release on Nov. 30.

The movie passed the milestone on Saturday despite a slew of new releases hitting cinemas, the Korean Film Council said.

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The cast of "Missing" celebrate the flick's hitting the 1 million mark in cinema attendance. From left, Kim Hee-won, Kong Hyo-jin and Uhm Ji-won

Starring Kong Hyo-jin and Uhm Ji-won, the film tells the story of a working mom who hires a Chinese nanny to take care of her baby, only for the nanny to disappear with the child.

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January 24, 2017

Being a star is harder than it looks on social media :

Um Ji-won prefers the grunt work to the glamour of acting

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily

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Actor Um Ji-won has never wished to be a “star.” She says that being a star actor is like receiving a gift from the public. No matter how much you want it, you can’t get it by simply asking for it. But she feels herself getting better at acting as she puts in more and more effort. [STUDIO 706]

Making appearances in two major releases, “Missing” and “Master,” 2016 was a busy year for actor Um Ji-won. The latter attracted nearly seven million ticket sales, marking itself as one of the year’s top-selling movies. 

But her path towards success has not been an easy one. For the past 18 years, she couldn’t shake off the sense of frustration she felt from not getting a chance to become a top star like other popular actors. Now, she calls those days “beautiful.” In an interview with Ilgan Sports, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, Um shared the thoughts and feelings that defined the past several years as an actor.

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Actor Um Ji-won starred in the film “Missing” and “Master,” which were both released last winter. From top to bottom: In “Missing,” she plays a single-mom who comes back home only to find out that her young daughter is missing, and in “Master,” she takes the role of a tough investigator. [MEGABOX PLUS M, CJ ENTERTAINMENT]

Q. You kept yourself quite busy with two films that were released at the same time last year. How was it?

A. The two were filmed at totally different times, but got released consecutively. For me, promoting films is much more difficult than actually shooting them. Of course, the acting part is hard too, but I just love being on set. When we advertise films, I feel that I’m too exposed to the public, meeting a bunch of people and getting evaluated by some of them. It stresses me out a bit.

Do you check reviews often?

Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. I can’t check them every single time. I feel thankful for positive remarks and try to take in negative responses. But aside from getting praised or scolded, I just don’t like exposing myself to people that much.

“Missing” got a lot of positive response from women. What do you think about that?

It must have been hard for them to choose to watch it, since the storyline is not so bright. I imagine that many people would have thought, “I’m going through harsh times myself. There’s no need for me to watch a dark movie.” I understand them. That’s why I tried to look bright when we promoted the film.

Did it make you feel sad that “Missing” didn’t turn out to be a box office hit?

It was odd that [ticket sales] dropped so suddenly after two weeks. If most people didn’t like it, I’d understand, but it received so many positive reactions. Box office records were not my priority to begin with, but it’d be a lie to say that I don’t feel sad at all. But I’m satisfied. I even ran into someone who watched it 13 times. I feel thankful for all viewers. 

On the other hand, “Master” was a grand hit. Why do you think so?

Of course, because it’s an entertaining film.

I heard you even did stunt training for the movie.

Yes. It hurt my back quite a bit, but sadly, the whole scene got deleted. I took the role of Gemma for two reasons. One was because I loved the scenes with actor Oh Dal-su, and the other was for the action scenes. Of course, I loved the screenplay and fellow actors, but I also looked forward to the action parts as well. 

Actor Kang Dong-won mentioned that he suggested the scene where you hit Lee Byung-hun’s head. Is that true?

Did he say that? Yes it’s true, and oddly that was the first time I shot a scene with Lee. I had to hit him on his head the first day I met him. Kang even went up to the director and Lee to persuade them to do the scene that way.

Are you close with Kang?

Yes. We debuted around the same time and took part in a drama together when we were rookie actors, so our friendship is somewhat special. We were able to follow each other’s growth as actors.

Photos that you have posted on social media have also become the center of attention. Do you agree?

Can I be frank about one thing? Personally, I wish that photos posted on social media were not made into articles. I’m fine with my fans and followers looking at my photos, but I feel that there’s no need for everyone else to take a look at my daily life. People who are not interested in me end up seeing the photos and thinking “Why would I care that Um Ji-won flew off to take a vacation?” I know social media is not a private space, but the reactions could be totally different. 

Social media is also how many people get to know about actress’ close relationships, right?

We all share the fact that we’re actors, so it’s easier for us to understand each other’s troubles and hardships. We spend a lot of time eating good food and talking. That’s how we organize our thoughts and gain energy. In the end, we’re all people. We don’t see each other as other actors, but simply as other human beings.

How would you describe your life as an actress?

I have been living quite ordinarily, so I’ve never really thought that my life is special. During promotional seasons, I get to put on exquisite clothes and sponsored jewelry, but I always feel that they’re not mine. I stand in the spotlight to be photographed, but after I walk down the stairs and come back to reality, it strikes me that, “This is not the real me.” That’s why I always strive to find the real me, so that I could be happy even without those shiny things.

But what we see is also a big part of your life, don’t you think?

Yes, it is. More than half of the time I’m awake, I need to live like that, so it certainly is a part of my life. But I’m trying to say that that’s not all of me. I try not to forget that those things can disappear at any time. That’s how the entertainment business works. Fake things come into your life and have a lot of influence. For instance, I communicate with people through social media, but in reality, I don’t even know their real names. Those relationships, in the end, are all close to illusions.

Did you feel that way when you debuted as well?

I’ve felt this way from the very beginning. Nowadays, it’s natural that people call me “actor Um Ji-won,” but back then, it made me feel awkward. I felt the importance of not losing myself.

Did you ever regret becoming an actor?

I’ve never regretted it, but there was a moment when I asked myself “Why are people so desperate to become actors?” But that never meant “I should stop doing this.” I just needed a clear reason to go on. I still feel uneasy when I don’t have any future films to take part in. Having three to four upcoming movies makes me feel comfortable. But meanwhile, I still think “Why am I so obsessed about taking part in an upcoming film?”

Do you want to try things other than acting?

I recently got interested in radio. I’ve wanted to do it since I was a little girl. Coming up with a piece with other staff members is a very rewarding experience, and radio could be seen as elaborate work as well. I’m in the middle of figuring out my areas of interest. I wish many people got the opportunity to think about what excites them the most when they’re at school. Most of us graduate after years of chasing after good grades, which was also the case for me too.

Did you ever experience a slump?

I wouldn’t call it a slump, but there was a time when I got frustrated at the thought that I need to become more popular with a hit drama. But the more I thought that way, the more I wondered why I needed to work so hard. I wondered why I needed to be stressed out when I was doing something that I liked.

Did you find the answer to that question?

For one, I’ve never wanted to become a star. I think being a star and being popular are two different things. Only a small number of people could become stars, and that’s why it’s special. It’s like a gift from the public. You can’t receive presents just because you want them. But in terms of my acting skills, I feel that I’m getting better and better as I try harder.

BY CHO YEON-GYEONG [shon.jihye@joongang.co.kr]

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October 15, 2017

 

President Moon promises support for Busan film fest in surprise visit

 

President Moon Jae-in on Sunday addressed the political turmoil that has shaken the Busan International Film Festival in recent years Sunday, in a surprise visit to the festival.

 

“No other international culture and arts event has had the success of BIFF. It’s become one of the world’s top five film festivals and Asia’s signature film festival,” Moon said at the Busan Cinema Center.

 

“It’s developed this much and has made Busan a city of film. But it pained me to hear that BIFF has shrunk due to political influences,” he said.

 

“Even now, many film industry personnel are not participating. ... I hope (BIFF) will be able to restore its former glory and develop into a more prominent international film festival.” 

 

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President Moon Jae-in (second from right) speaks to festivalgoers at the Busan Cinema Center on Sunday. From the left are BIFF’s executive director Kang Soo-youn and chairman Kim Dong-ho. (Yonhap)

 

Moon promised noninterference and support for the festival.

 

“The reason (BIFF) could grow so quickly into an international festival was because the government and City of Busan had a policy of support without interference. ... But afterwards, with governmental interference, I believe it faced difficulties.

 

“I promise to provide as much support as possible without interfering, and trust the festival’s organization entirely to filmmakers’ freedom and independence,” Moon said.

 

He called for those still boycotting the festival to participate and help it grow further. 

 

Moon, whose hometown is Geoje, just outside Busan, has become the first Korean president to attend the festival, which is in its 22nd edition this year.

 

 

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President Moon Jae-in attends a screening of “Missing” at the CGV Centum City Starium in Busan on Sunday. (Yonhap)

 

The president attended a screening at the CGV Centum City Starium here Sunday morning to view “Missing,” a 2016 mystery film starring Gong Hyo-jin and Uhm Ji-won. 

 

“It’s a film about women’s problems in our society,” Moon said after the screening during a talk session with director Lee and an audience, alongside the two lead actresses who also made an unexpected visit to Busan. “Ji-seon and Han-mae are the employer and employee, and the attacker and the victim, (respectively,) but they are all in the same situation as women.

 

“The film’s title also has a double meaning. Han-mae disappears literally but also, metaphorically, in our society, women are being marginalized. Women’s voices have gone missing. I think this is what the film means,” Moon said.

 

“The movie opened last year and many people saw it, but if people had been as interested in women’s issues as they are now, I wonder if the film would have been more successful,” he added. 

 

The film is a thriller about a working mom who takes care of her child and makes a living by herself. In addition to its two female leads, it is directed by female director Lee Eon-hie. 

 

Moon lunched with film students after the screening and held a meeting with BIFF officials. 

 

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President Moon Jae-in experiences a virtual reality film at the VR Cinema in BIFF, located at the Busan Cinema Center. (Yonhap)

 

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)

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November 28, 2017

 

Busan 2017 Review: MISSING, a Compelling Women-Led Kidnap Drama

 

★★


By Pierce Conran Modern Korean Cinema

 

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The kidnap thriller is a popular genre in Korea but E.Oni's Missing proves to be a refreshing addition to the crowded genre, buoyed by a pair of fine performances by Uhm Ji-won and Gong Hyo-jin in a story forged by compelling and twisting themes of female identity and motherhood in a patriarchal society. The film ends on a slightly disappointing note with a soft climax but the buildup and characters make the journey there more than worthwhile during its svelte 100 minute running time.

 

A high-level PR executive, Ji-sun is in the midst of a custody battle with her ex-husband for her daughter Da-eun. Due to the demands of her work and the legal case, she hires Han-mae, a Korean-Chinese nanny, to care for Da-eun during the day. When she returns from work one evening, both Han-mae and Da-eun have disappeared. Not wanting to jeopardize her custody battle, Ji-sun doesn't contact the police and conducts her own search, during which she discovers that Han-mae might not have been the person she thought she was.

 

Missing juxtaposes a conventional setup with the backstory of the mysterious Han-mae, whose roots and motivations, not to mention her heritage, pop against the clean, residential locations that serve as the setting for the film's first act. As Ji-sun digs deeper in her search she visits lower-rent neighborhoods and shady locales, such as a massage parlor staffed by illegal immigrants, but Han-mae's story goes deeper still.

 

A few of the typical tension builders in kidnap thrillers appear in Missing, such as a voice on a call coolly relating instructions for a cash drop, but for the most part E's film draws its tension and mystery from its women leads, and the particular terrors of Ji-sun's present and Han-mae's past which guide their hands at the crossroads where they find themselves. Men are of no help in this narrative, with Ji-sun's husband and the police force more or less absent, while other male characters in the investigation are more often than not obstacles with their lies and manipulations.

 

Uhm (Hope) puts in a strong lead as Ji-sun, playing her as a woman gradually driven to despair but who never breaks down in her search. Yet, despite the strength of her performance, she's overshadowed by the excellent Gong (Crush and Blush), who appears in far fewer scenes but whose presence is magnetic and whose aura lingers, even in the scenes she doesn't appear in. Her soft smile and cooing voice hide dark secrets that lurk beneath, but even as the truth begins to pour out and Han-mae shifts into the role of the villain, Gong makes her effortlessly alluring.

 

Missing didn't quite make the waves it might have when it was released late last year, on the back of a slew of the more mundane thrillers that studios typically roll out in the fall season, but with it, E (who is known for the terminal illness youth drama ...ing) proved that she's more than capable of handling other genres. Her next work, The Accidental Detective 2, should be on screens within a few months, but is unlikely to exhibit as unique a flavor.

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