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Ko - production in Busan
  • Director of HAN GONG-JU Shares Behind-the-Scenes Look at Film Festival Scene
  • by LEE Su-jin /  Mar 10, 2014
  • From Marrakech to Rotterdam… Overview of International Film Festivals
    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 Marrakech

    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.

    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.
    By LEE Su-jin(Filmmaker)
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