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Ko - production in Busan
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  • "How far can your philanthropy go?"
  • by JANG Byung-won (Film critic), Photo couretsy from Indieplus /  Apr 28, 2011
  • <Two Teeth> reflects matter of North Korean defectors on a story of teenagers. There is a prejudiced eyes over defectors even on adolescence. <Two Teeth> is a coming our of age film. Just like adolescence in growing pains, could our social mind grow?
    Upon call for filmmaking from National Human Rights Commission of Korea, what triggered you to focus on defectors?
    When I got a call from NHRCK, I was very excited. But soon it worried me right after. I have not made any film particularly focusing human rights, only I thought it would be okay if I can tell a story about humanity. When the notion of 'human rights' comes to mind, it easily reminds us of a kind of propagandist film delivering strong, direct messages. I didn't want to go for such a type. Meanwhile, I had to  look back my script in worrying that I may tell a story totally apart from matters of human rights. I eventually ended up to write the story that I like. Among the ideas for my next feature films, there is one about an old refugee in South Korea trying to go back to his hometown in the North. I meant to meet defectors in researching for the story. While I was doing a workshop organized by NHRCK, the topic of teenage defectors came into my mind.
    Although the film's main characters are defectors, the film actually talks about South Korean people by focusing on their prejudice and indifference mirrored by Joon-young, one of the main characters, his friends and adults.
    When we look closer South Korean eyes on defectors, they are usually empathizing. People often say that they wish the defectors can adapt to new life in South Korea so that they can be part of the society. But it can be totally different when it comes to matter of my daily life, like the film's episode of my kind with his broken teeth. How far your philanthropy can go when it comes a matter of your own reality? That was the question I want to raise from the story.
    Whether old or young, people in the film show incoherency between awareness and practice. They all know what is right by reasons, but they don't follow it by acts. It comes most obvious in the scene where Joon-young denies Young-ok' existence in front of other classmtes. I think it's a very universal human condition now.
    That actually interests me recently a lot. I think Korean people tends to consider the national matters in discord with individual reality. While an empathizing mind goes over tragedy from earthquakes in Japan, it can be quickly withdrawn when matter of Dokdo comes back. Diplomatic discord can be easily transferred to the individual level. Friendly approach toward defectors can be erased by accident like military attack against ROK ship Cheonan. When I had a conversation with defectors over the topic, they say they become abashed whenever it happens. We have to think in other people's shoes. Imagine when you're in Vietnam and questioned by a Vietnamese, "What were you Korean thinking during Vietnam war?" Speechless.
    How did you find SEO Ok-byul?
    SEO was recently escaped from the North and she has not really experienced school life as in the film. Unlike her age of fourteen in the film, she is eighteen in reality. I went to a school specially for teen defectors for casting, she caught my eyes at first sight. I can never forget the moment when I asked her what she would like to be in the future. She answered, "I want to be a politician." I asked the same question to every student there and she was the only one who wants to be a politician. She said that she wishes to play a critical role as a politician for reunification as she knows both sides of Korea. Following conversations with her convinced me she's the one and her performance was also satisfying.
    How was the process of making the film with other four directors? Did you all discuss over topics or tones of each episode?
    No. Each episode was done by individually. But it is interesting to see every episode is related to the matter of money. All five stories are triggered by troubles from money. I realized again money is the biggest concern of our time.
    What is your next project?
    It's about a baseball player and I am still struggling to build up the story. Personally, I have a very strong sympathy over sport players in Korea. There are Korean films about sportsmen recently, but I am trying to approach to the topic differently.

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