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‘Breathless’ soars as audiences go indie

Apr 24,2009
Yang Ik-june, director and star of the low-budget, multiple award-winning film “Breathless,” in a scene from the film. Provided by JinJin

“Breathless,” a low-budget independent film, has hit the jackpot and seems likely to follow in the footsteps of “Old Partner,” a similarly underfunded documentary that drew about 3 million viewers, to become a movie industry sensation.

Breathless, directed by Yang Ik-june, a 34-year-old novice, with a budget of 250 million won ($185,735), has drawn 50,000 viewers as of yesterday, eight days after its release.

Those might not be “Star Wars” numbers, but they’re huge locally considering that it took two weeks for Old Partner to pass the 20,000 mark.

The film’s eye-popping success is partly because five times more screens are showing it than were featuring Old Partner in the first week of its release.

The large number of screens showing Breathless was triggered by its achievements at foreign film festivals.

For the past few months, Breathless has been splashed across headlines as it swept up top honors at those festivals, including Best Film and the International Critics’ Award at the 11th Deauville Asian Film Festival in March.

At this rate, Breathless seems on track to break the record for an indie film to register 100,000 viewers quickest.

Unprecedented popularity of local independent films stems from their “difference” from conventional commercial films, experts say.

“The material covered by the recent successful independent films were quite new and fresh, and I think that works,” said film critic Kim Gyeong-wuk.

Breathless vividly depicts youth afflicted with domestic violence, while Old Partner tells the story of an elderly farmer and the dying cow that has served him faithfully for decades, focusing on their strong mutual bond.

“Audiences who are tired of commercial films, or those who just can’t find what they want to see among mainstream movies, seem to switch to indie films with new material and angles,” Kim said.

“Moviegoers are now weary of commercial and mainstream films that are just too predictable,” said Kim Young-jin, a movie and musical studies professor at Myongji University.

The rising popularity of local independent films is surely a good sign overall for the local movie industry, but it may be too early to call it the heyday of indie films, experts say.

“It still remains to be seen whether audiences are truly interested in indie films or if they are just turning to indie films for a change,” movie critic Kim said.

“Nevertheless, it’s good to see indie films, which have been shadowed by their mainstream counterparts despite their high quality, come into their own and win more viewers.

“I believe the situation is a positive sign for the development of our movie industry,” she added.



By Ki Sun-min, Park Sun-young [spark0320@joongang.co.kr]





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