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Busan: Korean Filmmaker Lee Joon-ik Back in the Oscar Race

Korean filmmaker Lee Joon-ik has an eventful career. He rose to fame with critically and commercially achieved Joseon-set drama “King and the Clown,” which was South Korea’s submission for the 2006 Oscar race. In 2011, disappointed by a string of films that underperformed at the box office, he declared retirement, which he reversed two years later. Now Lee is back with “The Throne” which is his country’s entry for the upcoming Academy Awards. “I kept developing ideas during my hiatus,” Lee tells Variety. “Retirement was a shameful decision. I won’t speak of it ever again.”

The Throne” has been submitted to the Motion Picture Academy as South Korea’s foreign-language entry. What are your thoughts on this?

Of course it is always a good thing to win something. Still, I believe I should also caution myself against the obsession of winning awards given by authorities.

What triggered you to make “The Throne,” the tragic history of Crown Prince Sado?

The moderate success of my comeback feature “Hope” healed a wound in me that the retirement had scarred. It made me believe that my films can also heal someone, and Sado was the one I wanted to heal.

Are you nervous about the box office score?

Since “Hope,” I’ve tried not to care too much about it. But I can’t be entirely indifferent; as a commercial filmmaker, I have the responsibility to make films that people can relate to.

As an actor-director, do you coach your actors on set?

I know I’m a terrible actor. On set, I just tell actors where to stand, where to walk toward, and where to look. Seriously, what can I teach to Song Kang-ho, the god of acting?

You’re showcasing a clip from your new film at the Asian Film Market’s Works In Progress program.

“Dongju” is a black-and-white film about Yoon Dong-ju, a Korean poet from the Japanese colonial era. Written and produced by “The Avian Kind” director Shin Yeon-shick, it will be released in December.

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