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August 14, 2017 taxi1.gif

'A Taxi Driver' surpasses 8 million in attendance, becoming most-viewed film this year

SEOUL, Aug. 14 (Yonhap) -- A Korean film about a pro-democracy uprising in the country exceeded 8 million in attendance Monday, dethroning "Confidential Assignment" as the most-viewed film of the year to date, its distributor said.

"A Taxi Driver" passed the threshold at 7 a.m., on its 13th day of run, Showbox said, citing real-time box-office data from the Korean Film Council (KOFIC).

It broke the record of "Confidential Assignment," a Korean comedy-action film that sold about 7.8 million tickets, as the most popular movie of the year to date.

The film topped the local weekend box office for the second weekend in a row, drawing 1.77 million views. Released on Aug. 2, the movie starring Song Kang-ho and German actor Thomas Kretschmann has topped the box office for the past 12 days.

The period drama directed by Jang Hoon tells the story of a Seoul taxi driver named Man-seop, who happens to take German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter to Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, for a large offer of money and witnesses the horrors of the bloody military crackdown on the uprising.

On May 18, 1980, citizens of Gwangju rose up against military rule and general-turned-President Chun Doo-hwan. The revolt was brought to an end by the bloody government-led crackdown, which left hundreds of people dead or missing.

In this photo released by Showbox, three members of the main cast of "A Taxi Driver" -- Yoo Hae-jin, Song Kang-ho and Choi Gui-hwa (L to R) -- pose for the camera in celebration of the film attracting over 8 million viewers. (Yonhap)

In this photo released by Showbox, three members of the main cast of "A Taxi Driver" -- Yoo Hae-jin, Song Kang-ho and Choi Gui-hwa (L to R) -- pose for the camera in celebration of the film attracting over 8 million viewers. (Yonhap)


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August 14, 2017

'A Taxi Driver' beats 'Battleship Island' with 8 million viewers 

A scene from the movie "A Taxi Driver" / Courtesy of Showbox

By Yun Suh-young The Korea Times

The movie "A Taxi Driver" which was released on Aug. 2 is rapidly toppling box-office records.

According to statistics by the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) Monday, "A Taxi Driver" topped the box office list for the weekend garnering 1.8 million viewers from Friday to Sunday.

Since its release earlier this month, it has garnered 7.94 million viewers in total, which is the highest number among all movies released this year. It beat "Confidential Assignment" released in January which was top of the list with 7.8 million viewers. The recently released controversial film "The Battleship Island" remained at fourth on the list with 6.4 million viewers. Third place was "Spider-Man: Homecoming" with 7.3 million viewers.

"A Taxi Driver" was also top of the list for real-time online reservations followed by "War for the Planet of the Apes" which is due for release Tuesday and "Midnight Runners" which was released Aug. 9. "Midnight Runners" is also rapidly garnering viewers, coming in second on weekend box office listings with 1.3 million viewers between Friday and Sunday and 1.9 million in total.

Movie critics had predicted that if "A Taxi Driver" managed to hit the 7 million mark by the weekend, it would easily head on to a record 10 million. At the current rate, it is highly likely to hit the 10 million mark.

Politicians also helped fuel the fervor for "A Taxi Driver."

Former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo who is running for the People's Party leadership watched the film on Aug. 9 and visited the grave in Gwangju of German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter whom the film is about. Other politicians from the People's Party also viewed the film while the entire Bareun Party members watched the film together on Saturday. Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon viewed the film on Aug. 6 with 20 of his Facebook followers.

On Sunday, President Moon Jae-in visited the cinema to watch the film, after which he is said to have shed tears. Moon watched the film in the same theater with the widow of Jurgen Hinzpeter who visited Seoul to see the film. They spoke and posed for photos after the film.

"A Taxi Driver" is based on a true story of German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter who exposed the tragedy of the Gwangju Democratization Movement of May 18, 1980, to the world, risking his life. At the time, he was driven around Gwangju, which was isolated by the government due to the democracy protest, by a taxi driver called Kim Sa-bok who tried to fulfill his duty of getting his passenger back to Seoul.

In the film, Jurgen Hinzpeter is played by German actor Thomas Kretschmann and the taxi driver Kim Sa-bok (Kim Man-seob in the film) is played by hit-maker Song Kang-ho.

"A Taxi Driver" is expected to ride on the holiday wave until National Liberation Day which falls Tuesday. Last year 5.3 million people visited the cinema during the Liberation Day holiday period from Saturday to Monday. 


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August 14, 2017

Presidents' choice of films shows political messages 

President Moon Jae-in, center, watches "A Taxi Driver," a movie based on the true story of the late Jurgen Hinzpeter, a German journalist who covered the Gwangju pro-democracy movement in 1980, at a local theater in Seoul, Sunday, together with Edeltraut Brahmstaedt, left, the widow of Hinzpeter, and Song Kang-ho, right, the actor who played the main character in the movie. / Courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae

By Kim Rahn The Korea Times

President Moon Jae-in watched "A Taxi Driver," a movie about the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju, Sunday.

The choice of the film was not random and he did not view the movie just as a pastime: watching a movie has been a way for a president to indirectly deliver his or her political message and state management philosophy.

"A Taxi Driver" is based on the true story of the late Jurgen Hinzpeter, a German journalist who reported on the Chun Doo-hwan military junta's bloody suppression of citizens in the pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju, and the Korean taxi driver who helped him.

The President watched the movie at a local theater in Seoul together with Edeltraut Brahmstaedt, the widow of Hinzpeter.

Since long before, he has highly evaluated the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, and he promised, as an election campaign pledge, to etch the spirit of the movement in the Constitution and find the truth about the suppression.

He also attended the commemoration ceremony in Gwangju about a week after his inauguration, while his predecessor Park Geun-hye had refused to attend.

After watching the film, Moon was quoted as saying by Cheong Wa Dae officials, "The truth about the uprising has not been fully revealed. This is the task we have to resolve. I believe this movie will help resolve it."

In 2012 before becoming President, Moon also watched "Masquerade," a film depicting a Joseon king learning to be a better ruler when he switches places with a poor clown. Moon, who cried a lot during the viewing, said on Facebook that the movie reminded him of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, his longtime friend for whom he served as chief of staff. "It made me think how a state leader should serve the people," he wrote.

In 2014, he watched "The Attorney," a film based on Roh's days as a human rights lawyer and a real event called the "Burim case" in 1981, when 22 students were falsely accused of espionage and tortured by the Chun regime. He then wrote, "Under the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations, history has gone backward and the nation's democracy, which people achieved through blood, is in a crisis again."

Park watched several movies, mainly those focusing on patriotism: "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" (2014), a true story about Admiral Yi Sun-sin who fought against Japanese invaders in the 1592-98 Imjin War; "Ode to My Father" (2014) that depicts the nation's industrialization era after the Korean War; and "Operation Chromite" (2016), a true story about the war. 

She watched "Ode to My Father" together with former nurses and miners who worked in Germany in the 1960s-70s and sent hard cash to help their families and revive the economy. They went to Germany under the Park Chung-hee government, Park Geun-hye's father. She said, "The movie well depicted the old generation's sacrifice. I heard the film is helping communication between the old and young generations."

Lee, as president-elect, watched "Forever the Moment" in 2008, a film based on a true story of the women's national handball team during the Athens Olympics. He expressed hope for the Korean team in the upcoming Beijing Olympics. 

Roh also watched a film about the Gwangju uprising, "May 18," in 2007. After watching, he said, "I couldn't watch the movie comfortably as I had a lump in my throat."



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August 14, 2017


by Pierce Conran / KoBiz

With the most powerful holdover of the year facing off against several strong newcomers, the Korean box office remained very strong in mid-August, selling 4.44 million tickets, with the local industry maintaining its traditional dominance in the late summer season with a 72% market share.

After posting strong midweek numbers, A Taxi Driver decelerated about 40% week-on-week to record another major top place finish with 1.77 million entries (USD 12.93 million), which brings its total to a stellar 7.94 million admissions (USD 55.16 million) in just 12 days. Director JANG Hun and star SONG Kang-ho may crack the 10 million mark at some point later this week.

It may not have topped the chart, but Lotte Entertainment’s youth action-comedy Midnight Runners dashed into an impressive second place finish after filling 1.33 million seats (USD 9.54 million) over the weekend and 1.95 million (USD 13.59 million) over its first five days. With strong word of mouth this commercial debut from former indie director Jason KIM, which stars KANG Ha-neul and PARK Seo-jun, is warming up for a healthy run.

Also impressive in third place was new Hollywood horror offering Annabelle: Creation, which opened with 751,000 viewers (USD 5.44 million) and 935,000 spectators (USD 6.64 million) over its first four days. The film is garnering plenty of buzz and has already passed the lifetime total of the first Annabelle and should finish somewhere around the totals of The Conjuring films, which are part of the same universe.

Closing out the top five were the third weekends of Despicable Me 3 and The Battleship Island, which fell 68% and 84%, respectively. The Dreamworks animation added 174,000 sales (USD 1.16 million) to give it a robust 3.03 million admissions (USD 19.43 million) total, while RYOO Seung-wan’s WWII epic brought in another 116,000 viewers (USD 825,000), giving a large 6.46 million spectator (USD 43.62 million) total.

War of the Planet of the Apes finally opens in Korea this weekend and will face off with A Taxi Driver for the top spot, while both Midnight Runners and Annabelle: Creation show no signs of disappearing any time soon. Two new local films will also be released, HUH Jung’s horror The Mimic and the documentary Criminal Conspiracy. 

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August 15, 2017

‘A Taxi Driver’ becomes most popular movie of 2017

Source: INSIDE Korea JoongAng Daily


“A Taxi Driver” stayed strong atop Korea’s box office over the weekend. The film hit the eight-million-ticket mark on Monday morning, making it the best-selling movie of the year so far. [SHOWBOX]

“A Taxi Driver” held on to the top spot at Korea’s weekend box office while “Midnight Runners” pushed “A Battleship Island” far down to take away the second spot. Newly released horror movie “Annabelle: Creation” also performed well to hit the third spot.

Director Jang Hun’s “A Taxi Driver,” starring Song Kang-ho, managed to maintain its place atop the top box office from Friday to Sunday, selling 1.77 million tickets at 1,410 screens. 

The movie, about the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement shown from the perspectives of a taxi driver and an ambitious German reporter, made up 40.3 percent of the entire weekend’s movie ticket sales. 

The film has been a box office hit since it was released on Aug. 2, and has so far raked in 62.7 billion won ($55.5 million). The movie has sold eight million tickets as of Monday morning to become the best-selling movie so far this year.

Comedic action flick “Midnight Runners” came in at second in its debut weekend with 1.33 million admissions sold at 1,058 screens, bringing its total sales to 1.95 million since it was released on Wednesday. 

Starring Park Seo-jun and Kang Ha-neul, the buddy movie revolves around two students from Korean National Police University, who take on a kidnapping case into their own hands after being frustrated by the police’s slow-paced investigation. 

Supernatural horror film “Annabelle: Creation” debuted in third at the weekend box office. In its first weekend, the movie sold 751,000 tickets at 1,006 screens, leading to a total of 935,000 admissions since the movie was released Thursday. The prequel to 2014’s “Annabelle” and the fourth installment in “The Conjuring” series, the movie is about a doll maker whose creation terrorizes a group of orphaned girls.

While animation “Despicable Me 3“ dropped a spot to come at fourth, period drama “A Battleship Island” surprisingly dropped three spots to round out the top five. 

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]

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Song Kang-ho has an accumulated attendance of 100 million

cr: Hancinema


Song Kang-ho is the creme of the crop in the Korean movie industry.

The film "A Taxi Driver", which surpassed 8 million viewers in 13 days and stands at the threshold of the first 10 million film in 2017, depicts the painful history of the Gwangju Democratization Movement. It resonates with the audience with its thoughtful directing and story that touches the painful past. Above all, the reason why this movie was able to stay fast in the minds and hearts of audiences is the perfect performance of lead actor Song Kang-ho.

Song Kang-ho plays Man-seop, a widowed taxi driver with an 11-year-old daughter. He sets out to Gwangju with a foreign passenger who offers him 100,000 won, which is the same as his monthly rent, if he returns before curfew. In stilted English learned on a Saudi construction site, he barely communicates with the German journalist Peter (Thomas Kretschmann). He witnesses the serious situation in Gwangju and tries to turn around, but he is touched by the people of Gwangju and tries perform his duties as a human.


His performance channeled the actions, conflicts, and the train of thought behind a simple expression on his face and he infused realism and sincerity into the character of Man-seop. When he is singing and when he says, "Dad left a guest behind" to his daughter, it makes the audience cry.

Song Kang-ho made his debut in 1996 with "The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well" (Director of Hong Sang-soo) and became famous with Lee Chang-dong's "Green Fish" (1997). After playing the gangster role in "Green Fish", people criticized the movie maker for "casting a real gangster" for the role. He was completely one with his character.

He then worked with the best directors in Korea and starred in "No. 3" (1997), "The Quiet Family" (1998), "Shiri", (1998), "The Foul King" (2000), "JSA - Joint Security Area", (2000), "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", (2002), "YMCA League" (2002), "Memories of Murder" (2003), "The President's Barber" (2004), "Antarctic Journal" (2005), "The Show Must Go on" (2007), "Secret Sunshine", "The Good, the Bad, the Weird" (2008), "Thirst" (2009), "Secret Reunion" (2010), "Hindsight" (2011), "Howling" (2012), "Snowpiercer" (2012), "The Face Reader" (2013), "The Attorney" (2013), "The Throne" (2014), "The Age of Shadows" (2016), and more. Last year's "The Age of Shadows" had an attendance rate of over 7 million and he's the only actor with a record of over 100 million accumulated viewers.

However, actor Song Kang-ho cannot be judged merely by cumulative audience numbers. The reason why moviegoers and audiences regard Song Kang-ho as "the most believable actor" is for reasons beyond his popularity and acting ability. It is because of his attentive and thoughtful attitude towards the messages in his works.

He is not afraid to appear in movies that will ring true with audiences, despite any potential pressure and stigmatization. His filmography shows Song Kang-ho's belief that one film can change the world. "I prepared for "A Taxi Driver" by consulting a number of experts and looking for photographs. It was a very cruel incident. I wanted to talk about such a real history, "he said.

"The world is going to change little by little if more movies with our wishes come out and we take it step by step", said Song Kang-ho. That's why he is the 'top actor'.

Meanwhile, "A Taxi Driver" released on August 2 and is still playing in theaters.



source: http://news.nate.com/view/20170814n09800?mid=n1008

credit: http://www.hancinema.net/song-kang-ho-has-an-accumulated-attendance-of-100-million-108889.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter#!prettyPhoto

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Source: Jason Bechervaise‏ @Jasebechervaise

Source: The Korea Times‏ @thekortimes

August 16, 2017

Banks' movie investments bring mixed results

Woori smiles with ‘A Taxi Driver,' Shinhan, IBK grimace with ‘The Battleship Island'

A scene from "A Taxi Driver" / Courtesy of Showbox

A scene from "The Battleship Island" / Courtesy of CG Entertainment

By Nam Hyun-woo The Korea Times

Korea's three major banks are seeing contrasting outcomes in their investments in movies now showing. While Woori Bank is smiling with the rising popularity of "A Taxi Driver," Shinhan Bank and Industrial Bank of Korea (IBK) are grimacing with lower-than-expected ticket sales for "The Battleship Island."

According to Woori Bank, Tuesday, the bank and venture capital firm Company K Partners have set up a fund to invest in Korean movies in March. For the 12 billion won ($10.48 million) fund, Woori poured in 3 billion won and a number of large movie distributors also joined as partners. 

Including "A Taxi Driver," the fund has so far invested in six movies. It is seeking to plough up to 60 billion won into 100 Korean movies for the next four years.

The movie needs 4.3 million viewers to break even. According to Korea Film Council (KOFIC), it drew 8 million viewers in less than two weeks after its release. 

Given that it is attracting about 700,000 viewers every day, the film has a shot at topping 10 million viewers in days to come.

Initially, the fund sought an average 10 percent yield, but market watchers say the 10 million mark will bring up to a 70 percent yield to Woori Bank.

The movie documented a taxi driver's journey taking German reporter Jurgen Hinzpeter into Gwangju where a democratic uprising took place in 1980 asking for the end of military dictatorship. 

"From the perspective of banks, the investment may not be huge considering other deals. But box-office success of a movie not only brings profits but also promotes the brand image," a Woori official said. 

On the other hand, Shinhan Bank and IBK would be unhappy with the bitter box-office results of the highly anticipated film, "The Battleship Island." 

According to bank sources, Shinhan made a 5 billion won investment into a fund investing in cultural content. The fund has a good track record as it invested in a number of blockbuster movies but the choice on "The Battleship Island" might be a mistake. 

IBK has earmarked a 50 billion won budget for movie investments this year. Along with "The Battleship Island," IBK invested in "The King's Case Note," released in April, and "Along With The Gods," which will be released in December. 

Despite financial support from the two banks and 26 billion won in production costs, "The Battleship Island" is showing a shabby performance, after being mired in a series of controversies, including alleged distortion of historical facts to monopolization of screens.

With its star-studded cast and plot on a sensitive historical issue, the movie was expected to draw more than 10 million viewers and got off to a solid start. But it lost steam during the second week after its release, posting around 6.5 million viewers this week. 

Against this backdrop, market watchers say "The Battleship Island" may not reach its break-even point of 8 million attendance, which will result in losses for the two banks.

Film financing

With the scale of movies growing, costs for their production also soar. This makes film financing a viable investment option for banks.

According to bank officials, the basic principle of selecting a movie to invest in is similar to the process we choose which movie we should watch this weekend -- directors, actors and scenarios. 

Since it is about making an investment, banks put more weight on public taste than individual preference and also check rival films. 

"Even though we finish research on those factors, that would be guesswork and there is no guarantee of a movie's commercial success," a bank official said. "Thus, banks also make inquiries about the investment target to movie industry insiders to mitigate risks as much as possible." 

In Korea, IBK has been one of the leaders in film financing, after establishing a dedicated team in 2012, the first of its kind here.

Since then the bank has financed a string of movies, chalking up commercial success. 

Last year, it financed "Train to Busan," a zombie apocalypse movie which drew 11.57 million at the box office, and "A Violent Prosecutor," a crime comedy film which had 9.71 million viewers. The Seoul-based lender also invested in two movies that marked 10 million viewers at theaters in 2015 -- "Assassination" and "Veteran."

Not only IBK but also other banks do not disclose how much they earn from film financing. But the estimation is that banks earn more than what it seems because profits are coming not only from theater attendance but also from other distribution channels, such as TV and the internet.

IBK says profits are not the sole goal of its film financing. Its yield from movie investments is known to be about 3 percent as there are also failures. 

"The focus is to promote small and medium-sized Korean productions to produce good movies," said an official of IBK, the state-owned lender originally set up to financially support small companies.


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August 16, 2017

German Photojournalist Honored with Gwangju Exhibition

By Kim Sung-hyun The ChosunIlbo

An exhibition is to honor the German photojournalist Jurgen Hinzpeter, who reported on the 1980 Gwangju democratic uprising and inspired the hit movie "A Taxi Driver."

The exhibition of the late reporter's work will be held at Gwangju City Hall from Aug. 21 to Sept. 3 and hosted by the city government and the Gwangju and Jeonnam Press Association.

Photos and videos taken by Hinzpeter in Gwangju during the uprising as well as works by local journalists will be on display.

His glasses and passport, which was also used in the filming of "A Taxi Driver," will be part of the exhibition. They were lent to the organizers by his widow, Edeltraut Brahmstaedt. 


Hinzpeter was the ARD correspondent for Japan when he came to Gwangju on May 20, 1980 and recorded the brutal crackdown on the protesters over two days. He managed to dodge tight security checks by the army and delivered the film safely to Japan.

He came back to Gwangju on May 23 and recorded the final moments of the crackdown until May 27. His work was instrumental in bringing global attention to the tragedy.

Gwangju Mayor Yoon Jang-hyeon said, "The purpose of this exhibition is to honor the noble spirit of a journalist who risked his life to let the world know the truth 37 years ago."

Meanwhile, "A Taxi Driver" is expected to become this year's first film to draw 10 million viewers as it hit 9 million mark on Wednesday, just 15 days after its release.

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August 11, 2017

‘A Taxi Driver’: Film Review taxi2.gif

A richly imagined tribute to a working-class hero

by Sheri Linden THR

In spring 1980, a South Korean cabbie awakens to the brutalities of his country’s government in a drama based on actual events.

Many Western filmgoers are probably unfamiliar with the Gwangju Uprising, a cataclysmic event in South Korea’s struggle for democracy. The fourth feature by director Jang Hoon brings the May 1980 revolt and its violent suppression to vivid life through the eyes of one of the rebellion’s heroes, the still-unidentified cabbie who made it possible for a German journalist to broadcast evidence of the massacre to the world. With a robust and affecting lead performance by Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer, Secret Sunshine), the film is primed to connect with audiences in North America as well as on home turf.

Song’s character, Kim, is, at first, an accidental participant in the shattering events. A Seoul widower struggling to make ends meet — and not averse to asking his landlord for a loan — he snatches a lucrative fare to Gwangju, more than 150 miles south of the capital, from another driver, with no clue to the danger that lies ahead. Martial law has been declared nationwide, but with university students taking to the streets with particular fervor in the southern city, Gwangju is under retaliatory military siege, cordoned off and with its phone lines cut.

As the concisely handled setup makes clear, Kim’s passenger, Jürgen Hinzpeter (Thomas Kretschmann), is a reporter for the German pubcaster who has made a beeline from Tokyo upon hearing of troubles in the neighboring country. With neither man fluent in the other’s language, the two haggle over whether to proceed once roadblocks pop up to hinder their way to Gwangju. A sense of professional pride, in addition to the lure of the much-needed money, pushes Kim to complete the trip via backroads. They find a city under lockdown, with local newsrooms shuttered and TV reports labeling the pro-democracy demonstrators “radicals and gangsters.” Then they stumble into a bloodbath. As one traumatized witness puts it, “There aren’t enough coffins in Gwangju.”

Aiming his video camera at the clashes between civilians and heavily armed troops, first from a rooftop vantage point and then in the midst of the pandemonium, the journo soon becomes targeted by the authorities. Two locals prove indispensable to him and Kim: a genial aspiring musician (Ryu Jun-yeol), whom Hinzpeter enlists as a translator, and a generous-spirited Gwangju cabbie (Yoo Hai-jin).


Jang, whose previous feature, the 2011 war story The Front Line, was South Korea's submission to the Academy Awards’ foreign-language category, choreographs strong action sequences outside Gwangju as well as within its periphery. Dynamically captured by DP Go Rak-sun, these include a tense checkpoint encounter and a climactic mountain-road chase whose metal-on-metal violence is all the more shocking for the pastoral backdrop. The use of slo-mo amounts to the film’s rare instances of unnecessary emphasis; far more effective is Kim’s tearful, compassionate response to the murderous scenes unfolding around him.

The name of South Korea’s president at the time, Chun Doo-hwan, is never uttered in the film, which skirts the issue of American support for the dictator. But though Eom Yu-na’s screenplay sometimes states the obvious — “Things are getting bad here,” a character declares well past the point of outright catastrophe — it’s a deftly imagined slice of history, one that aims not for a sweeping historical perspective but a portrait of personal transformation.

Having urged his 11-year-old daughter to avoid skirmishes with a neighbor, Kim finds himself heading into the fray. Whether deluded, naïve or uninformed, he begins the journey as an apolitical patriot who has no sympathy for the protesters and can’t believe the army would hurt people. That makes the next 24 hours not just eye-opening but heartbreaking for him, and Sang’s superb and stirring performance makes his dawning consciousness and courage powerfully felt.

Jang sets the stage for that transformation with the almost farcical comic energy of the film’s opening scenes. Emerging from a tunnel in his apple-green cab, Kim sings along to an effervescent radio pop tune. (Elsewhere, Cho Young-wuk’s score is well used.) Kim expertly and aggressively maneuvers his way around the snarl of traffic in downtown Seoul created by protesting students. Soon, sidestepping involvement won’t be so easy for him. But whether his humility is cultural, individual or a combination thereof, he’ll never step into the spotlight to take credit for his role.

As the driven reporter who becomes Kim’s unlikely comrade, however briefly, Kretschmann delivers a sympathetic, lived-in performance. If it appears that he might be overplaying his character’s emotions in the film’s late going, a postscript clip of the real Hinzpeter, filmed months before his January 2016 death, shows that the actor and the film get it just right.

In unexpected and wonderfully satisfying ways, A Taxi Driver taps into the symbiotic relationship between foreign correspondents and locals, particularly in times of crisis. Though filled with moments of taut suspense and quick action, Jang’s film is also rewardingly unrushed, a quality exemplified by an extended sequence in which the visitors from Seoul share a meal and an evening with Yoo’s Gwangju cabbie and his family. At once sincere, awkward and silly, their respite of calm and laughter amid the terror beautifully underscores the way ordinary lives are caught in the crosshairs of history.


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August 4, 2017

Film Review: ‘A Taxi Driver’

Maggie Lee Variety.com
Chief Asia Film Critic @maggiesama

An entertaining journey into a tragic and violent chapter of Korean modern history. taxi1.gif

Revisiting the 1980 Gwangju Massacre, a landmark historical event in South Korea’s march towards democracy, director Jang Hoon brings a sappy, feel-good touch to a tragic subject by focusing on the bond between a German reporter (Thomas Kretschmann) and the taxi driver (Song Kang-ho) who helped him get the news out to the world.

Jang, who’s established himself as a hit-maker with features like “Secret Reunion” (also starring Song) and “The Front Line,” again worked B.O. miracles, earning the third highest domestic opening score of all time with “A Taxi Driver.” While the film clearly taps into the national zeitgeist, buoyed by a sweeping show of people’s power that ousted the president, international audiences should also appreciate the actors’ feisty turns. (It opened in the U.S. on Aug. 11.)

“A Taxi Driver” is the first major production to tackle the Gwangju Uprising head-on since the 2007 blockbuster “May 18.” Having less pretensions to epic grandeur than that film, it instead gains credibility from being based on a true story, and closing footage of the German reporter returning to the democratized country in 2003 certainly adds historical heft.

The script by Uhm Yoo-na and Jo Seul-ye has drastically simplified the political context that triggered the uprising, but this in turn helps foreign viewers grasp the plot more easily than denser, more intellectual probings of the subject in such films as Im Sang-soo’s “The Old Garden” or Lee Chang-dong’s “Peppermint Candy.” Opening titles explain how the 1979 assassination of dictator Park Chung-hee sparked hopes of democracy among the younger generation, though the power vacuum was soon filled by Gen. Chun Doo-hwan, who declared martial law in a 1980 coup. In Gwangju, protest quickly spilled out of universities and engulfed the southwestern city.

Despite the government’s attempts at keeping foreign press in the dark, Juergen Hinspeter (Kretschmann), correspondent for a German broadcast channel, gets wind of the unrest brewing in South Korea. From his base in Tokyo, he flies to Seoul where his contact helps him book a taxi to drive him south to the beleaguered city. When the protagonist (Song) whose real name is never revealed in the film, overhears that a foreigner is forking out about $900 for the fare, the cash-strapped single father cunningly steals the job from the intended driver.



They arrive on May 19, a day after the uprising broke out, to find the city completely sealed off by the army, although the two still manage to bluff their way pass blockades. Initially, they come across a group of students whose youthful innocence is expressed by the way they sing and dance like revelers at a Woodstock concert, but eventually wind up at a hospital where the casualties provide raw evidence of the bloody crackdown.

The protagonist becomes embroiled in a squabble with local taxi drivers, who scoff at his mercenary attitude. Jang makes good-humored fun of biases between Seoul citizens and natives of the Jeolla district, where the film takes place, but later demonstrates how humanist values transcend regional differences. Although the driver initially displays cowardice in the face of conflict, his personal struggle is rendered agonizing enough by Song to give full force to a climactic U-turn.

Apart from re-creating one incident in which paratroopers tried to wipe out a whole crowd in front of a broadcast station, the film eschews the kind of bombastic, effects-heavy setpieces that characterized “May 18.” Instead, it depicts the regime’s brutal repression implicitly through its blatant attack on press freedom and shameless distortion of the truth. This in turn accentuates Hinzpeter’s role in raising international awareness for their crimes.

According to historical records, on May 20, hundreds of taxis mobilized themselves in a parade to support marching citizens and rescue the injured. Hailed as “drivers of democracy,” many lost their lives. Since only a few taxis are deployed in any given scene, the film hasn’t re-created an adequate sense of the scope of their heroism. However, the power of solidarity is conveyed in a late car-chase sequence that’s choreographed to rousing effect. (The film looks polished overall, its mood buoyed by a playful, jazzy score.)

Although the film’s portrayal of its main characters has recognizable precedents, the two lead actors calibrate their mutual respect and co-dependency to engaging effect, as the escalating violence and peril heighten their sense of personal mission. Echoing the role of American correspondent Sydney Schanberg in “The Killing Fields,” Hinzpeter arrives in Korea as an opportunistic newshound rather than a champion of justice. Kretschmann plays him initially with an unlikable cold efficiency, treating his driver and other Koreans as mere tools or fodder for his article. Impressively, there are no overnight changes in his persona. Rather, the actor maintains a certain stiff composure even as his passion and affection for the democracy fighters visibly grows. The final parting is genuinely touching as the two men now relate to each other as equals.

Audiences familiar with Korean cinema will instantly recognize a resemblance between the character of the taxi driver and Song’s role in “The Attorney,” in which he transforms from a mercenary tax solicitor to an altruistic human-rights lawyer. And yet Song makes a subtle distinction between the two characters, as his comic charm betrays the tough-talking character’s soft heart, as when he keeps letting passengers in need s


hort-change him.

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August 19, 2017

“A Taxi Driver” Becomes 1st Korean Movie Of 2017 + Song Kang Ho’s 3rd Movie To Sell 10 Million Tickets

Source: Soompi by J. Lim 


The movie “A Taxi Driver” has become the first Korean movie released in 2017 to attract 10 million viewers.

Statistics released by the Korean Film Council at 8 a.m. KST on August 20 show that “A Taxi Driver” has sold 10,068,708 tickets. The feat was achieved in 19 days as the film was released on August 2. This makes “A Taxi Driver” the 15th Korean film, and the 19th film overall including foreign films, to reach the “10 million” milestone. The last movie to join the club was last year’s hit movie “Train to Busan.”

“A Taxi Driver” is the second-fastest Korean movie to attract 10 million viewers, tying with “Train to Busan.” The reigning record is still being held by the 2014 film “The Admiral,” which achieved the feat in 14 days. This is also Song Kang Ho’s third movie to sell 10 million tickets following 2006’s “The Host” and 2013’s “The Attorney,” making him the first “Triple 10 million” Korean actor.


Director Jang Hoon took a moment to express his gratitude for the achievement and said, “While I was making the film, I was constantly worrying about how the story I was directing would affect those who are still living with the memories of the 5.18 Gwangju Democratization Movement. So I’m very happy and moved to know that our film was able to connect with so many people. I want to thank all of the cast and crew for their hard work and dedication to bring the story to life.”

Actor Ryu Jun Yeol, one of the cast members of the film, also took to Instagram to thank everyone for their support and to commemorate the new milestone.

Congratulations to “A Taxi Driver”!

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August 20, 2017

'A Taxi Driver' becomes 1st movie this year to attract 10 million moviegoers  taxi1.gif

SEOUL, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- A Korean movie about a cabbie who took a German journalist to the center of the Gwangju pro-democracy uprising in 1980 became this year's first film to attract more than 10 million moviegoers Sunday, its distributor said.

"A Taxi Driver," released Aug. 2, became the 15th Korean movie and 19th movie of all time to cross the milestone in the Korean box office, the Showbox said. "Train to Busan," which premiered July 20 last year, was the latest one to reach the achievement. The zombie flick sold 11,565,479 tickets.

"A Taxi Driver," starring actor Song Kang-ho and German actor Thomas Kretschmann, hit the milestone on the 19th day since its opening, the same as "Train to Busan" did. "Roaring Currents," the most-watched and highest grossing movie of all time in the country, recorded 10 million admissions in 12 days. Released in July 2014, the movie is about the country's legendary naval war with Japan led by Korea military hero Admiral Yi Sun-shin.

This image released by Showbox shows a scene from "A Taxi Driver." (Yonhap)

This image released by Showbox shows a scene from "A Taxi Driver." (Yonhap)

Actor Song, who played the taxi driver, has just added one more film to his filmography that managed to pull off 10 million admissions, becoming the first Korean movie actor to do so. "The Host" in 2006 and "The Attorney" in 2013 topped 13,019,740 and 11,374,610 in admissions, respectively.

Directed by Jang Hoon, the film is inspired by the true story of the German journalist who, with the help of the cabbie in Seoul, sneaked into the southwestern city of Gwangju where the government cracked down on the democratic movement and reported the state's brutality to the outside world.

On its sixth day of opening, the movie already retrieved the production cost of 15 billion won, or US$13 million, with ticket sales.

"I was under a lot of pressure making the historic episode into a film since so many people are still living with the brutal memories of the Gwangju uprising," the director Jang said upon hearing the news. "I am so happy that I could connect with many people. I really thank many actors for their sincere acting and staff for their hard work."

President Moon Jae-in (2nd row, C) watches a movie about the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju at a movie theater in Seoul on Aug. 13, 2017, in this photo provided by the presidential office. The film released this month is based on the true story of a Korean taxi driver and Jurgen Hinzpeter, a German journalist who covered the armed revolt. (Yonhap)  

President Moon Jae-in (2nd row, C) watches a movie about the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju at a movie theater in Seoul on Aug. 13, 2017, in this photo provided by the presidential office. The film released this month is based on the true story of a Korean taxi driver and Jurgen Hinzpeter, a German journalist who covered the armed revolt. (Yonhap)


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August 20, 2017

'A Taxi Driver' attracts 10 million moviegoers; 15th Korean film in history 

The taxi that appeared in the mega-hit movie "A Taxi Driver" is exhibited in front of former South Jeolla Provincial Office in Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, to celebrate the movie's attracting over 10 million audiences, Sunday. / Yonhap

By Kim Jae-heun The Korea Times

"A Taxi Driver," the film portraying events of the Gwangju pro-democracy movement in 1980, has become the first film to attract over 10 million moviegoers this year.

The movie, released Aug. 2, drew 10,068,708 moviegoers as of 8 a.m. Sunday, film distributor ShowBox said.

Only 18 movies have sold over 10 million tickets in Korea, including Hollywood blockbusters "Avatar" (2009) "Interstellar" (2014) and "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015).

"A Taxi Driver" became the 15th Korean movie to cross the milestone. The Korean naval war film "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" based on the historical Battle of Myeongnyang, stands on top of the highest grossing film list drawing 17.6 million people.

Jang Hoon, director of "A Taxi Driver," thanked the actors and production staff while speaking of his relief and gratitude that he was able to communicate with the audience through his cinematic work.

"As the movie deals with the sensitive topic of the Gwangju pro-democracy uprising and those who witnessed the events are still alive today, I felt burdensome that my work could disappoint some audience members," said Jang in an interview with the local press.

"A Taxi Driver" is based on the true story of German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter, played by Thomas Kretschmann, who sneaks into the southwestern city of Gwangju, and plays a crucial role in reporting the massacre of civilians fighting for democracy against the then military junta.

Hinzpter, who is called by his nickname Peter, travels some 250 kilometers south from Seoul with the help of cabbie Kim Man-seob, played by Song Kang-ho.

Kim is in it for the money Peter pays him to take him to Gwangju, initially, unaware that it could be a life-risking journey. When he realizes he could face danger with the government repressing any civilians they suspect as being protesters, he falls into a dilemma of whether he should leave Peter behind and go back to Seoul or take the German with him.

When the filmmaker read the scenario of "A Taxi Driver," he thought nobody but Song could play the role of Kim.

"Song's acting surpasses typical universality entertaining the audience in a new and enjoyable way," said Jang.

With his role of playing a familiar warmhearted character in the movie, Song became the first Korean actor to appear in three films that have attracted more than 10 million moviegoers

He is often perceived as a working-class ordinary man in his 40s who could easily be found living next door. This time, Song took the role of a common taxi driver who accidentally gets involved in the historical incident.

In his movie "The Host" (2006) that first recorded over 10 million admissions, Song played a snack bar owner who fights a genetically modified creature that has kidnapped his daughter by the Han River.

In "The Attorney," Song's second film that pulled in more than 10 million viewers in 2013, he played the late President Roh Moo-hyun, who defended the people against military governments.

This time, Song again rises as a hero playing a crucial role alongside the German reporter on the screen.


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August 21, 2017

Two Korean films sweep weekend box office

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- Two domestic films, "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners," led the local box office last weekend, data showed Monday.

According to the computerized figures from the Korean Film Council, "A Taxi Driver," a period drama about the 1980 pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju, drew 949,908 people over the Aug. 18-20 weekend, extending its reign as the top release into its third week.

Released on Aug. 2, the movie starring Song Kang-ho and German actor Thomas Kretschmann has sold a total of 10,353,208 tickets until Sunday, becoming the first film to pass the 10 million threshold this year in the country.

This composite photo shows promotional posters for "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners." (Yonhap)

This composite photo shows promotional posters for "A Taxi Driver" and "Midnight Runners." (Yonhap)

The film helmed by Jang Hoon tells the story of a Seoul taxi driver who happens to take a German reporter to Gwangju, some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, for a large offer of money, and witnesses the horrors of the bloody military crackdown on the uprising in May 1980.

"Midnight Runners," a Korean police school comedy, remained in second for the second straight weekend, selling 848,788 tickets.

Seen by a total of 3,906,566 people until Sunday, the film starring Park Seo-jun and Kang Ha-neul is expected to surpass 4 million in attendance on Monday.

Directed by Jason Kim, it revolves around two cadets at the Korean National Police University who are embroiled in a kidnapping case that they witness at midnight.

Coming in third and fourth is two newcomers -- Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster "War for the Planet of the Apes" and the Korean mystery-thriller "The Mimic" -- seen by 683,459 and 511,112 people respectively.

American horror movie "Annabelle: Creation" ranked at No. 5, down two steps from previous weekend, with 252,034 views.


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August 21, 2017

'A Taxi Driver' Becomes 15th Korean Film to Draw 10 Million Viewers

By Lee Tae-hoon The ChosunIlbo

"A Taxi Driver," directed by Jang Hun and starring Song Kang-ho, has become the 15th Korean film to draw more than 10 million viewers. It had attracted 10.07 million viewers as of Sunday, making it the first film this year to reach the milestone, according to distributor Showbox.

The film reached the 10 million mark just 19 days after its release, the same number of days as "Train to Busan," which went on to attract 11.56 million viewers last year.

The pace was the second fastest after "Roaring Currents," the biggest box-office hit in the history of Korean cinema, which accomplished the feat in 12 days.


Song is the first actor to star in three films to attract 10 million viewers. He previously starred in "The Host" in 2006 and "The Attorney" in 2013. In the new film, Song plays a taxi driver who takes a German journalist to Gwangju during the democratic uprising in May 1980.

It is also the third such film for supporting actor Yoo Hae-jin after "The King and the Clown" in 2005 and "Veteran" in 2015.

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August 21, 2017

Exhibit of late German journalist begins in S. Korea

GWANGJU, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- An exhibition on late German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter opened on Monday in the southwestern city of Gwangju as the city paid tribute in recognition of his efforts to report a 1980 democratic uprising to the world.

The exhibition, held at the Gwangju City Hall, is timed with the box-office hit "A Taxi Driver," which depicts the story of a cabbie who happened to take the German reporter to the center of the pro-democracy movement in the South Korean city in May 1980. In the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, hundreds of citizens in the region were killed during protests against the then-military junta of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan.

Helped by the taxi driver named Man-seop, Hinzpeter became the first western reporter to send out footage of the bloodshed during the crackdown on the movement to the world.

Displayed are videos and photos on the pro-democratic movement, along with a pair of glasses worn by Hinzpeter and his passport, made available by his family.

This photo, taken on Aug. 21, 2017, shows the passport of late German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter during an exhibition on him in the southwestern city of Gwangju. (Yonhap)

This photo, taken on Aug. 21, 2017, shows the passport of late German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter during an exhibition on him in the southwestern city of Gwangju. (Yonhap)

The exhibition, which will run through Sept. 3, also has some of the movies' props including a Kia Brisa produced in 1973 that was used for the taxi and a camera similar to that used by the German reporter.

Hinzpeter, who started his journalism career as a video reporter for the German public broadcaster ARD-NDR's Hamburg bureau in 1963, came to Japan in 1973 as a correspondent before heading to Gwangju from Seoul in a taxi and reported the truth and tragedy behind the movement in 1980.

After retiring in 1995, he received the second Song Kun-ho journalism award in 2003, a South Korean award given to outstanding journalists. The South Korean foundation responsible for the award recognized the German's "feat of advancing the country's democratization by awakening Koreans' conscience through his keen journalistic spirit that risked his life."

Hinzpeter died in January 2016 at the age of 79 and his nail clippings and hair, which he left in 2005 when he visited Gwangju, are enshrined in the monument there as he wished to be interred in South Korea.


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August 21, 2017

'A Taxi Driver' passes 10 million admissions in South Korea

By Jean Noh | Screen

 A Taxi Driver has crossed 10 million admissions in South Korea, becoming the only film to cross that important milestone so far this year. Directed by Jang Hoon, the film stars Song Kang-ho and Thomas Kretschmann.

Investor/distributor Showbox released the film on August 2 on 1,532 screens. It has grossed $71.8m to date at the local box office making it the highest-grossing film in Korea this year.

A re-imagining based on a true story, the film is about a Seoul taxi driver who helped a German journalist shoot and smuggle out footage of the May 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement which ended in a massacre of civilians by then-president Chun Doo-hwan’s troops.

The second-ranking film of the year so far is local detective action film Confidential Assignment, which clocked up 7.8 million admissions and $55.9m for CJ Entertainment after its January 18 release. It’s followed by Spider-Man: Homecoming with 7.2 million admissions and $51.9m, which Sony released on July 5 in Korea.

As of today (August 21), A Taxi Driver is now Korea’s all-time 15th ranking film with 10.35 million admissions, according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC). It is flanked on the all-time hits list by Avengers: Age Of Ultron, which picked up 10.49 million admissions, and Interstellar, which had 10.3 million.

The film’s release comes on the heels of another democratic movement in South Korea where ex-president Park Geun-hye was ousted from office this March following months of protests, on grounds including the blacklisting of artists.

As one of those on the blacklist, Song admitted in a May appearance on cable channel JTBC’s Newsroom that he initially hesitated to take on the role of the cabbie in this film, which is about defying a media blackout to help expose an authoritarian dictatorship’s wrongs, as Park’s administration was likely to “dislike” it. But he changed his mind after reading the script and becoming impassioned to share the story with many people.

Among the more than 10 million to view the film, newly elected president Moon Jae-in recently saw it with Edeltraut Brahmstaedt, widow of Jurgen Hinzpeter – the real-life correspondent for German public broadcasting company ARD-NDR upon whom Kretschmann’s character is based.

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