중앙데일리

Old couple uncomfortable with role as documentary stars

Feb 12,2009
Choi Won-gyun, left, and his 30-year-old bovine companion, in the movie “Old Partner.” Courtesy of the filmmaker

“Old Partner,” a low-budget documentary about the 30-year friendship between a farming couple in their 80s and a loyal cow, attracted 305,000 viewers from Jan. 15 to Feb. 10, a record in Korea for an independent film.

The movie was originally screened in just seven cinemas on its release date. But word spread quickly among film lovers, and it is now showing in over 100 movie theaters nationwide.

Despite the unexpected popularity of the movie, the elderly couple have complained to the movie crew that their lives have been turned upside down. They say they are inundated with calls and requests from the media and ordinary viewers who want to meet and talk.

“The two are having an unpleasant experience now that the movie has become hugely popular,” said Han Sang-gab, the village headman.

“They are used to living in this tranquil village. With more and more people coming to the village and bugging them, however, they’ve become very sensitive.”

Some television network producers have already visited and filmed the couple’s village without advance permission.

Some even went inside their house although the couple strongly resisted, according to a producer of the movie. The two live in a small hilly village of 40 in Bonghwa county, North Gyeongsang Province.

In early February, Ko Yeong-jae, the producer of the movie, wrote a message on the movie’s official Web site, http://blog.naver.com/warnangsori, asking viewers and media professionals to refrain from making surprise visits to the couple’s village and to respect the their privacy. “We understand that many people - regardless of whether they are viewers or from the media industry - want to know how the elderly couple are doing. But we can no longer sit idly by and watch their private lives severely damaged. We would rather choose to cancel showing the movie than to see the couple suffer,” Ko wrote. The director added, quoting the farmer’s wife: “The grandmother said, ‘I want to tell them to leave me alone,’ when I visited her in early February.”

She told him that she feels increasingly uncomfortable and scared when she gets prank calls from strangers. She often encounters strangers asking her to pose for a picture with them.

The film has won international recognition, winning the Pusan International Film Festival Mecenat Award for best documentary last year. It became the first Korean documentary to make it to the official competition at the 25th Sundance Film Festival, which ran from Jan. 15 to 25.

For people who want to see the movie with English subtitles, visit Indie Space located in Myeongdong, central Seoul. The theater specializes in showing independent films. To inquire about the exact location of the theater, visit http://www.indiespace.kr/intro/intro_03.htm or call (02) 778- 0366.


By Hong Gweon-sam JoongAng Ilbo/ Kim Mi-ju Staff Reporter [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]


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