Korean directors test the waters of overseas movie markets

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Korean directors test the waters of overseas movie markets

It’s been a few years since a Korean director has been invited to participate in major film festivals. But recently more and more directors are targeting the overseas market as a testing ground for their styles.

Among the celebrity directors who are getting offers to work overseas is Lim Sang-su, director of “The President’s Last Bang,” who released his film “The Old Garden” last week. Mr. Lim is currently trying to select a working partner from three or four French producers to shoot his next film “Some Woman in Paris.” He will decide on a producer by this month to start pre-production in France by the fall of this year.
Mr. Lim, who became famous in France by winning a prize at the Deauville Asian Film Festival with his “A Good Lawyer’s Wife” and by the critically acclaimed screening of “The President’s Last Bang” in Cannes, has been receiving offers to make a French version of the first of these two films.
For shooting in France, the home of auteur films, Mr. Lim explained that he is currently in the process of searching for better conditions for his production, adding that “except for the director of photography, the editor and main actors in the film, the entire crew will be made up of locals.”
“Some Woman in Paris” delves into the story of a Korean woman studying in France, who enjoys relationships with European men who have fantasies about Asian women. It’s an erotic comedy, parodying racial discrimination.
“The European film world is turning to young directors in Asia as they have a lack of local talent,” he says. “Korean directors, on the other hand, are forced to turn to overseas markets with the rise of production costs and other conditions that make it difficult for directors to survive at home.”
Gwak Jae-yong, the director of “My Sassy Girl,” is also getting on a plane. He is going to Japan to shoot the blockbuster “Cyborg Girl,” a project that’s worth about 10 billion yen ($84 billion). The film, which deals with the story of a girlfriend from the future changing her lover’s fate, will be a mix of science fiction and romance, the genre in which the director has excelled. The film starts shooting at the end of this month and is scheduled to be released at the end of the year. Produced by Tristone, an established production company based in Japan, the film will be shot in Japan in Japanese, with all Japanese actors and crew.
“I’ve gotten several offers to do a remake based on Japanese comics,” he says. “But I wanted to write my own screenplay. It’s a chance for me to experience a professional production system and show the talent of a Korean director when many think the Korean wave is in a downturn.”
Offers for other celebrity directors such as Kim Ji-un, Park Chan-wook and Bong Jun-ho have also come from foreign producers.
Kang Je-gyu, who went to the United States after the release of his “Taegukgi,” is also preparing a science-fiction blockbuster with major studios; the same is true for Lee Jae-yong, director of “Scandal,” who has gotten a proposal for a romantic comedy.
The trend of overseas offers illustrates the growing reputation of Korean directors.
“In the past, Asian directors hired by Hollywood faced limitations in genre, with horror given to Japanese directors and martial arts to Hong Kong and Chinese directors,” says an aide in the local film industry.
“It’s appropriate that Korean directors are focusing on the Korean scene as their base, while they expand their territory abroad through films that can best show their style,” he added.

by Yang Seong-hee
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