Film struggles with a troubled future
Kim pursues the rediscovery of tradition, while Jung pushes toward the future by working in a digital format rather than film.
The two directors recently spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo. Kim began by stating that the Chungmuro Film Festival is going to be held in the midst of a crisis in Korea’s movie culture.
“It’s a serious problem,” he said. “I fear that the golden age of the past will vanish.”
Jung said that movies today have become like fast food and are somewhat similar to today’s popular music culture.
“We’re living in an age where discussion about movies is shallow,” he continued. “It seems as if there is no more ‘cinephile’ culture.
“In the past, a film could be something that everybody wanted to see and it could be ‘difficult.’ That led to a boom in movie going and making,” said Kim “Today, there is not much passion or rarity left.”
The conversation then shifted to independent movies. “I am not aware of any new emerging directors,” said Kim. “When Hong Sang-su and Kim Ki-duk made their debut, I knew them even before their movies were released, but now it’s different. I watch more indie [independent] documentaries now.”
Jung argued that something seems to be missing today. “There have been a few attractive films, but what they lack is the kind of aesthetic shock found in Hong Sang-su’s ‘The Day a Pig Fell into a Well’ or Kim Ki-duk’s ‘Alligator.’ Today’s indie movies do not make film move forward in the same way as Bong Jun-ho’s ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’ or ‘Save the Green Planet’ by Jang Jun-hwan,” he said.
“Recently, the Japanese film industry created a small but meaningful group of supporters,” said Kim. “But due to the influence of American dramas in Korea, those who support film keep breaking away. This creates long-term stagnation in the Korean film industry.”
Despite these problems, both Kim and Jung are hopeful.
“One day when I visited a record store, I saw a man in his 50s with a look of rapture on his face, as if he was a little boy,” said Jung. “He was holding an album by the Grateful Dead. I was moved. At the same time, a teenager was looking for albums by Deep Purple and Credence Clearwater Revival, the ones that we used to listen to.”
What Jung wants from the Chungmuro Film Festival is the coexistence of old and new.
“If the film industry dies it will not be because digital has replaced film but because the audience is missing,” said Kim. “Film festivals bring back the audience.”
After all, CinDi is not about watching newly released films but about pursuing both digital and analog forms of film.
“I think the two festivals are linked,” said Jung. “Since the Chungmuro Film Festival brings out the past, and CinDi the future, I hope that there will be a coexistence between the two eras.”
Along with Jung, Kim agreed that film festivals have the responsibility to create opportunities to discover new developments in audience taste. “At the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, Bollywood [Indian] movies were a big hit,” said Kim. “Audiences were completely absorbed.”
Jung said that many people who like to watch film also make their own movies. Today there is sometimes no distinction between producer and viewer.
“Among the CinDi entries, many directors did not receive any film education,” he said. “One director revealed that he began film making after the camera company he worked for went bankrupt. It was well-filmed. Digital is not a substitute; it is a new creation.”
“One day, I found an 8mm camera and with that, I filmed my campus and voila, made my first short-film,” said Kim. “Digital offers the same possibility, but to more people.” In closing, Jung said “If the solution to this crisis can be found in tradition, then tradition is also the future.”
Born: January 1957
Filmography: “La Vie En Rose” (1994) and “Jungle Story” (1996)
The Chungmuro Film Festival will take place from Oct. 25 to Nov. 2 at the Chungmuro theaters in central Seoul. Around 100 films will be presented.
Occupation: Film critic
Career: Chief editor of film magazines “Road Show” and “KINO”
CinDi will be held from July 20 to 27 at the CGV theatre in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul. Around 40 films will be presented.
By Lee Hoo-nam JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]