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Lee Su-Jin: ‘The Challenge Is to Create a New, Entertaining, Bankable Story’

Helmer’s pic “Han Gong-Ju” has its international premiere at Marrakech

36-year-old South Korean director Lee Su-Jin is currently attending the 13th Marrakech film festival, where his debut pic, “Han Gong-Ju” has its international premiere — playing in Official Competition. The pic won the CGV Movie Collage Award and the Citizen Reviewer’s Award, ex-aequo, in Busan in October. Marrakech has regularly included South Korean films in its line-up and in 2009 organized a country tribute.

What inspired this project?

There was a case of gang rape a long time ago which became the motif of this film. But I didn’t want the film to be about judging the victim and assailant. I wanted it to convey my hope that other ‘Gong-ju’s’ cornered into a dead end can perhaps avoid taking such an extreme decision, and to express my support for them.
(Note: ‘Gong-ju’ can also mean ‘princess’ in Korean.)

The film has already won awards. As this is your feature film debut, how did you react to the praise?

Awards are like nutritional supplements, and I wish to make my next film.

The plot seems pretty dark. Is there any kind of social commentary behind it all?

I aim to talk about hope in this film. I wanted to convey faith and trust that Han Gong-Ju can swim a distance of 25 meters.

Marrakech has had a strong Korean presence in the past as well. What do you think your film adds to the mix in competition?

All the Korean films previously invited to Marrakech were excellent and are films that I personally like. As for “Han Gong-Ju,” I believe that there are sensibilities that are created by collisions of bright and dark sequences.

How would you describe the state of Korean film right now?

Films are constantly being produced in Korea. There are commercial films that generate a good box office and just as many independent films that have their own colors. And the technical aspects and methods of expressions have made major progress in independent films, endeavoring to keep the director’s voice while communicating with mass audiences.

What challenges do Korean filmmakers face?

I can’t be sure, but wouldn’t it be the same challenges worldwide? Which would be to create a new story, an entertaining story, a bankable story.

Who is your target audience?

If possible, I want it to be from teenagers through to senior citizens.

What kinds of projects are selling these days?

Films such as “Snow Piercer” (dir. Bong Joo-ho), “The Face Reader” (dir. Han Jae-rim) that was released recently had a great response. As usual, fun, entertaining, meaningful films receive the love from the general audience. Personally, I enjoyed the masterpiece “Christmas in August” (dir. Hur Jin-ho) that was re-released and a recent feature animation “The Fake” (dir. Yeon Sang-ho) was also impressive.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s fest?    

I am looking forward to visiting Morocco for the first time. And there are many people that I admire among talents and filmmakers attending the festival.

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