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K-Cinema Library

26 YEARS

Dec 18, 2018
  • Writerby Pierce Conran
  • View504

2012135 MINAction, Drama
DIRECTOR CHO Geun-hyun
CAST JIN Goo, HAN Hye-jin, LIM Seul-ong, BAE Soo-bin, LEE Gyoung-young, JANG Kwang
RELEASE DATE November 29, 2012
CONTACT Chungeorahm Film
Tel : +82 2 548 2952
Fax : +82 2 548 2946

The Gwangju Democratization Movement has inspired countless Korean films, ranging from 90s classics such as JANG Sun-woo’s A Petal (1996) and LEE Chang-dong’s A Peppermint Candy (2000) to last year’s summer blockbuster A Taxi Driver, but few if any films have tackled this dark chapter of Korea’s modern history with such ferocity as 26 Years, the 2012 adaptation of the popular yet sensitive webtoon by KANG Full. Yet this controversial work and surprise hit almost didn’t make it to theaters.

A rough gangster, a stoic competitive shooter and a timid police officer all have one thing in common: they lost a loved one during the Gwangju Democratization Movement that rocked the country in May 1980. Now a mysterious benefactor has brought them all together with a plan and a promise revenge. He intends to make the man responsible for their suffering, but still living off the far of the land, beg for forgiveness. If he refuses, he will pay with his life. 

Originally scheduled to go into production in 2008 with director LEE Hae-young (Believer) and a cast that included RYOO Seung-bum, JIN Goo, KIM A-joong, CHUN Ho-jin and BYUN Hee-bong, the project suffered a major setback when investors pulled out just 10 days before the start of principal photography. Even under normal circumstances, this would be considered a fatal blow, but the film’s prospects seemed especially bleak as it was largely believed that financing fell through due to government pressure, owing to the film’s sensitive and very clear political motivations. Yet through a successful crowdfunding effort and some generous private investors, the story eventually found its way to the screen four years later, though with a different director and an almost completely different cast (only JIN Goo remained).

Shooting from the script originally written by LEE Hae-young, 26 Years vividly brought the powerful imagery and sentiment of KANG’s original work onto the screen. Exploring (and arguably exploiting) a nation’s collective historical trauma, the film teases a revisionist narrative – will these fictional characters succeed in their aim to take down a still-living historical figure? One has to discover themselves whether or not it follows in the footsteps of Quentin TARANTINO’s similar revenge-tinged historical fantasy Inglourious Basterds.

Despite its financing troubles and its inability to land a major distributor, 26 Years proved to be a major hit when in opened towards the end of 2012, and eventually attracted close to three million viewers.
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