New Im Kwon-taek film focuses on hanji

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New Im Kwon-taek film focuses on hanji


Song Ha-jin, president of the JIFF committee; actress Kang Soo-yeon; director Im Kwon-taek; actor Park Joong-hoon; and JIFF director Min Byung-lock, from left, attend a press conference in Seoul Tuesday to introduce Im’s new movie in collaboration with the Jeonju Film Festival. Provided by the organizer

The Korean government is currently intensifying its efforts to promote Korea and its cultural assets overseas, most notably hansik, or Korean food. But less attention has been paid to hanji, the Korean paper made from mulberry trees that is known in Asia for its beauty, flexibility and high quality.

However, a new film by internationally acclaimed Korean director Im Kwon-taek and produced by the Jeonju International Film Festival could change that. With a budget of 2 billion won ($1.73 million), the film will begin shooting in January. If completed in April as scheduled, it could go on to open the Jeonju film festival, which, true to its name, attracts a global audience.

The city of Jeonju is known for the beauty of its hanji, so it was a natural place for the project to begin. Festival organizers came up with the concept and then approached Im about directing the film.

“While we have carried out various projects to promote hanji, [making a movie about hanji] will be the highlight, particularly because it is with director Im,” Song Ha-jin, president of the JIFF committee, said.

Im’ s career dates to the early 1960s and his filmography consists of 100 movies, many of which have won critical and popular acclaim.

“When I was first presented with the idea of making a movie on hanji, it interested me a lot and [I] didn’t hesitate to participate because I’m always interested in portraying and displaying traditional Korean things on screen,” said Im.

“However, it was far more difficult than I expected because the world of hanji is so profound and the process of constructing a story about it was so painful that I almost regretted my decision [to make the film],” Im said about the painstaking process of writing the script for the movie, which took two years. “Still, it was a greatly rewarding experience and I will also remember this project as an opportunity for learning,” he added.

The movie, with the tentative English title “Dipping into the Moonlight,” tells the story of a mediocre civil servant who gets involved in a city-driven hanji-related project just to get a promotion, but later falls for the beauty of the paper and becomes devoted to the work.

The poetic title describes the delicate hanji-making process and was also meant to give tribute to the hanji artisans who have dedicated their lives to their craft, the director noted.

“Even though this will be my 101st film, I’m sincerely determined to work on it as if it were my debut film,” Im said.

Another reason that the film is meaningful for Im is that it is expected to be the director’s first foray into digital film, which is a growing trend in Korean cinema.

Meanwhile, the film has also attracted the attention of the local movie industry for its cast, which features veteran actors Kang Soo-yeon and Park Joong-hoon.

Im says he has always wanted to work with Park, whose latest work was in the Korean blockbuster “Haeundae” (2009). Im actually offered Park a role in his movie “The Taebaek Mountains” in 1994, but the timing was not right. Since then, the two artists had been waiting for another opportunity to work together.

For that reason, Park said, “It was a great honor and pleasure for me to participate in Im’s forthcoming 101st film, which deals with a very attractive subject and yet is still a very human story, as many of Im’s other films are.”

Kang, the leading female character in the film, also has strong ties to Im. She starred in his 1987 film “The Surrogate Woman,” and earned a Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival.

The actress says she feels a lot of pressure in working with Im again “because his previous films have seen such great success.” But Kang, who has collaborated with Im twice before, also credits Im with helping her to establish herself as an actress, and says she will do her best “to make the film as great as the others.”

International film festivals, including Cannes, have already expressed interest in the film, according to JIFF director Min Byung-lock. If so, it would be a return to the French festival for Im, who won the festival’s Best Director award in 2002 for “Chihwaseon,” the story of a 19th-century Korean painter.

By Park Sun-young []
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