Bicultural Background Spurs DirectorBritish pop band Rialto caused a bit of a stir in Korea when they
arrived early this year to perform in Seoul, heaping praise on all things Korean and, unusually for a European group, filming a music video here. But the director behind the video may be less well known – and those who did catch his name may be wondering about his background.
John H. Lee, 30, is a Korean-American film director who was first
noticed when his film "The Cut Runs Deep" was released in Korea, winning praise from critics and movie-goers at the Pusan Interna-tional Film Festival.
His film follows the fortunes of two young ethnic Korean gangsters
living in a big city ghetto in the United States.
Born in 1971 in Seoul, Mr. Lee's family emigrated to the United States when he was 12, he said in an interview on Monday with the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition. He said he found it tough to adjust. But he found that through watching movies he found a new way to communicate with others and express his feelings.
"As soon as I got into middle school, I asked my parents to buy me
a video camera. I started to make experimental short films of my own, using my family, friends and neighbors as subjects," he said.
At about the time he graduated from high school, he happened to
watch Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver." His admiration for the film prompted him to apply to study film-making at New York University, Mr. Scorsese's alma mater. "
I was touched a lot by his films, which depicted real life based on truth. And I realized that it's up to the filmmaker whether a film is meaningful. I real-ized that people can be inspired and awed not only by literature or music but by movies. Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg were all my teachers," Mr. Lee said.
Once at New York University, he made several short films, such as
"Five Minutes" (1989), "Fantaisie-Impromptu" (1990) and his NYU
thesis film "Two Chance Encounters" (1995).
"Then, one day I saw a horror movie, and thought, 'I can do better
than that.' Confident of success, I began 'The Cut Runs Deep.'" It was five years before he finally released the 117-minute film, which he wrote.
Mr. Lee has also begun to make a name for himself as a music video
director who refuses to stick to the rules of convention. His major feats include videos for duo Korean rock group Born Again's "Good Bye" (2000), Lena Park's "You Mean Everything to Me" (2000) and BoA's "ID: Peace B." (2000).
"I hope that my films can do something for the world, and I know
I can make a difference. But true confidence doesn't come from what people think of me but only from deep inside my heart."
by Kim Jae-seon