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Ko - production in Busan
  • July JUNG, Director of A GIRL AT MY DOOR
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Jun 16, 2014
  • “A GIRL AT MY DOOR is a story about meeting Young-nam, a truly amazing person.”
     

    July JUNG, a 34 year old director with very clear and sparkling eyes, calls herself lucky and often smiled and laughed during the interview. A Girl at My Door was her first full length scenario, which was produced by LEE Chang-dong of Secret Sunshine (2007) and Poetry (2010), and featured BAE Doo-na of Air Doll (Koreeda Hirokazu, 2009) and Cloud Atlas (Lana and Andy Wachowski, 2012). The film was invited to the Certain Regard section at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. KOBIZ met the director on one rainy day for along chat, a week before the release of A Girl at My Door, near a university campus.
     
    Tell us how you liked Cannes Film Festival.

    It was a very strange kind of feeling. I was working in the editing room right until the previous day and I barely arrived on time at the festival. And things transformed dramatically over the night, and I was treated like a noble lady in an antique picture, you know, the kind of picture in a beautiful frame. It was really strange. And I heard so many warm words for my film in the interviews, which made me very grateful. Their first questions were mostly “does this kind of thing really happen in Korea,” but then later on in the interviews many of them got the message what I wanted to deliver in the film. Besides, in Korea, the media’s focus seemed to be the social criticism aspect of the film. Some said that I was aiming too high trying to deal with the issues of immigrant workers and child abuse. Now that I look back on my film, I guess what seemed to be natural to me was delivered to them in an artificial and ineffective way.
     
    It is a mixture of two stories: one with a helpless little girl exposed to violence, and the other with two lonely women who face different kinds of loneliness, learning to accept each other. Which one did you put more emphasis on?
     
    Let me begin by bringing up the poster first. For the domestic version, there is Do-hee (KIM Sae-ron) in the center, and on her right and left are Yong-ha (SONG Sae-byeok) and Young-nam (BAE Doo-na). However, I believe the international version does a better job at summarizing and representing the film, where Do-hee and Yong-nam are holding each other. So I suggested that we use the international version in Korea as well but nobody would take me seriously (laughs). I had no intention whatsoever to talk about social issues like a little girl exposed to violence or the society that lets it happen. I wanted to focus on the very individual and private emotions, and in doing so, I firmly believed there will be moments where the audience can really feel and share the two protagonists’ feelings. I used many apparatuses for this objective, and they were all designed to affect the characters’ emotions.
     
     
    The Korean title is Dohee-ya, but in fact, the main character is Young-nam.

    The film begins with Do-hee’s story. Do-hee is mentally handicapped and needs somebody to help her. I tried very hard to find the right person for that helpful character and that was Young-nam. So this film is a story about a woman who encounters a girl with a distinctive character. Apart from the scenario, I already had parts of the story involving Young-nam beginning to understand her identity, entering the police academy, and the tragic incident that happened in Seoul, that is not very clearly described in the film. Eun-jeong (JANG Hee-jin) is her life partner and soul mate, but these two probably had many break-ups before. And by a certain occasion, Young-nam’s sexual identity was exposed to the public, which Young-nam did not deny. And now that things have changed, Young-nam declared to break up with Eun-jeong, by agreeing to move to a job posting in a remote area. When do you decide to give up on love and break up with a person that you dearly loved? This is the stance that I took to make these characters and situations.

    Besides, Young-nam from Do-hee’s perspective is the type of person who never gives up on her own dignity despite everything. Young-nam is a kind of flawed character who digests her destiny and wound, and makes people around her even more lonely, but she never negates herself. Even if that gives her big burden and pain, she tries hard not to lose her own dignity, and that is the theme of this film. However, this process was ever so hard. Even I didn’t fully understand Young-nam. I wanted Young-nam to manifest her great aspects despite her clueless situation, but I was wondering myself if I could develop the story to the ending that I had visioned. Therefore, I was greatly satisfied when I was finally done with the scenario. She was like the kind of persona in a Greek tragedy, a flawed character who tried to avoid his/her fate but then finally faces it! Even as the author, I couldn’t not help but admire her. (laughs)
     
    The casting in this film is very good, to the extent you may say you were lucky.

    You are right. However, I guess the casting was so good because the scenario was good in the first place (laughs). BAE agreed to be in right away after she read the scenario. I wondered why she agreed and asked her when I met her for the first time after finalizing casting. I asked her if she felt the same kind of loneliness as in Young-nam when she travelled the world by herself, packing and unpacking, and meeting strangers, and she said yes. (laughs) This very smart actress intuitively understood this character of mine right away. In addition, when she was acting, she instinctively expressed Young-nam, who is not overtly active or passive. KIM Sae-ron refused to join us at first, so we held an audition trying to find a tall and skinny girl. However, there was nobody like Sae-ron. We got a hold of her mom by chance, and she finally talked her into working with us, which made me so very much relieved. 
     
    What is LEE Chang-dong like as a producer?

    Unlike what people usually expect, we do not have that close relationship between a Korean teacher and student, and he was very careful and respectful with me all along (laughs). However, this film would not have been possible without his kind help, from casting to the completion. When I was in trouble, he would come to me quietly and comfort me by showing sympathy, and when it came to criticizing, he would criticize me very specifically. What he especially emphasized was the running time. He would come and tell me, “July, the running time is 138mins, and don’t you ever forget that. I was not able to keep it, but you have to.” (Laughs)
     
    It is to be released in France as well.

    Yes, this coming September. It was also sold to UK and Italy, and what I am really excited to see is the poster. They use a horizontal poster in Europe, and I have a specific still cut in my mind for the poster.
     

     
    By SONG Soon-jin
  • Any copying, republication or redistribution of KOFIC's content is prohibited without prior consent of KOFIC.
 
  • Comment
 
 
  • Writer : kapsaliioanna@hotmail.com  | 2016-03-02 09:18:03
  • Hello, how could i contact with Ms Jung please? thank you
 
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