Dir: Yim Soon-Rye
93 min., 35mm, 1:1.85, Color
Produktion: Samsung Entertainment Group, Seoul. Buch: Yim Soon-Rye, Park Kyung-Hee. Kamera: Peter Gray. Schnitt: Lee Dong-Hee. Musik: Lee Byung-Woo. Produzenten: Yim Soon-Rye, Kim Eun-Young.
Darsteller: Kim Hyun-Sung, Lee Jang-Won, Jung Hee-Suk.
Uraufführung: 14. September 1996, International Pusan Film Festival.
Weltvertrieb: Samsung Entertainment Group, 6th Fl. Daechi Bldg. 889-11 Daechi 4-Dong, Kangnam-Ku, Seoul, Korea, 135 284. Tel.: (82-2) 3458 1155, Fax: (82-2) 3458 11 08.
Thu 20.02. 16:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Thu 20.02. 19:30 Delphi Fri 21.02. 20:15 Arsenal Sat 22.02. 17:00 Akademie der Künste
Kim Taemoo, ,Independent', wants to pursue a career as a comic book artist. He finds employment but his work is reduced to demeaning tasks. Then he finds out that promotion means drawing comics under the name of another cartoonist who will take all the credit. Frustrated and angry, he quits his job. The only option left is a job copying another artist's work in order to get around the copyright. Disillusioned, he turns to life on the streets.
Cho Sein, ,Petal', is secretly studying to be a hairdresser and beautician. He is misunderstood by his alcoholic father who insists on making a ,man' out of him. Stretched to the limit, ,Petal' is prone to fits of depression.
Kong Seungho, ,Fatso', is extremely overweight and lacks ambition. He squanders all his money on food and renting video tapes. His main interest in life is girls. The only trouble is they find him uninteresting and undesirable. His luck changes when he gets a job in a video shop. Now he gets plenty of opportunities to watch videos and even talk to girls. But despite his enthusiasm for his new lot in life, he eventually loses his job.
Then the three friends get their call-up notices for military service. ,Fatso' goes on an eating binge and becomes so overweight that the military cannot accept him. ,Petal' decides to go to the army to develop his manhood and please his family. Tragically, he is sexually harassed by members of a street gang. The resulting emotional scar disqualifies him from service on psychological grounds. ,Independent' tries to get his friends to break his collar bone with a club. The plan fails. In the army he is unfairly victimized.
Much later the three friends reunite. In some way or another each one of them has been ,betrayed' by the system. They are not so much losers, as anti-heroes.
Using static camera, the director wants to portray a strong sense of realism. Her approach to the subject avoids symbolic representation and a cinematic distortion of reality. Most of the cast had little or no previous acting experience. With non-professional actors, the director seeks naturalism and truth in the characters and the story. Yet it is a very human story... Paralleling real life, the plot of this film is relatively simple, life-like. In its many subplots, there is a wealth of characters - an alcoholic specializing in failure, a man obsessed with Baduk, an Asian checker game, an unemployed man who indulges in the simple pleasures of life, and so on. It is as rich and varied as life itself.
I wish to explore the rigidity which overshadows the whole of Korean society. My story is of high school buddies who fail to go to college after their high school and face recruitment for military service. In Korea, college admission is important. The failure of these friends at the college entrance exam implies failure in mainstream society. Military service is the emblem of all sorts of social standards. The way these men deal with their recruitment reflects their social attitudes. It is generally acknowledged that the value system and the way of thinking are stereotyped in current social practice. Anyone who does not conform to the standards of society is treated as a straggler and at the same time a social outcast. I try to portray rigid social attitudes through our uniformed values, family and social violence, and carelessness against the social background of overrated college entrance exams and military culture.
Korean filmmaking is very commercially based. Production on all levels is extremely expensive. Independent production, in particular, is a very difficult undertaking. It is difficult to initiate, difficult to complete, and high standards of production are difficult to maintain. The new Korean feature film THREE FRIENDS is an exception. It is an independent film with the backing of a major Korean company. In some respects it is a main stream film; in other respects, an independent film.
The film has a modest budget, provided by its ,big business' partner on a ,no strings attached' basis. Significantly the filmmakers retain full creative control over the film. In many ways, the film enjoys the privilege of both adequate financing and creative control which is not common for independent film production.
The pre-production of this film began in the fall of 1995, when Samsung Entertainment Group showed interest in the screenplay which director Yim had been writing for a year. It is not common in Korea for a large company to produce a film with a new director, especially one who insists on auteurism. Director Yim won the Grand Prize in the first Seoul Short Film Festival with the film Promenade in the Rain (1994) and was recognized as a promising director. This fortunate coincidence provided Yim with a chance to capture Korean ordinary lives without using the star-system.
Since the first Korean movie was made in the early 1920s, Korean film has made continuous progress in terms of both quality and quantity. However, it is only recently that some special attention has been paid to the exportation of Korean films.
Though there were a few examples of Korean films being sold overseas, people were not really interested in distributing them until recently, partly because they didn't believe Korean movies were marketable. These days, whether you believe in the possibility of Korean films in the world market or not, you should take the foreign market value of the movie into consideration even at the pre-production stage because it's getting harder to recoup the expensive production costs.
The average Korean film production cost was about U.S. $ 1 million until two or three years ago. Only when big enterprising companies started getting involved in the film industry did the production cost become higher.
Nowadays, the average production cost has more than doubled to over $ 2 million. When you add promotion and publicity costs, it can easily reach 2.5 million. This kind of cost, though low compared to that of European films, is still too high. It's almost impossible not to lose money if you depend only on the small domestic market unless the film makes a really big hit. For these reasons, people are trying to find other ways of making money apart from box-office income.
(...) Despite these circumstances, there have been two good examples of professional Korean film exports. They are 301.302 (by Park Chul-soo) and A Petal (by Jang Sun-woo). Both films were distributed by foreign sales agents. 301.302 was picked up by a Korean-American businessman in New York, and he managed to find an American distributor, Arrow Releasing Inc. When Arrow received the original film, however, they had a big problem. The film was recorded in mono sound, whereas the international market standard needs at least Dolby Digital quality. Arrow had to invest a lot of money into totally new post-production.
But it was a worthwhile effort because Arrow made a huge profit selling the video rights to Hallmark. Foreign sales agent of A Petal is Mayfair in London. As the post-production for the film was done overseas with the highest standards, Mayfair didn't have to worry about the film's sound quality. But they thought a little bit of editing on the film would suit Western audiences, so they paid for the reediting works. (...) Because Korean films are not well recognized by foreign audiences, it is essential to give them confidence about the quality of Korean movies. That's why it is good to have foreign sales agents covering worldwide. Movies are highly value-added products, so prices can vary dramatically according to the circumstances. At this stage, we need professional abilities and professional distributors to sell Korean products at reasonable prices.
However, sooner or later we will have to find some more independent ways of handling Korean movies. Last year, more than 60 films were made, and only a handful of them attained box-office success at home. Absolutely, we need to find out a way to expand the overseas market for Korean films.
(Kwak Kyung-Hee, in: Pusan International Film Festival Daily, September 17th, 1996)
Yim Soon-Rye was born in 1960 in Iuncheon, Korea. She majored in English literature at Han Yang University, Seoul (1981-1984). From 1985 to 1987 she studied film theory at the graduate school of the same university. At University Paris 8 she studied for a Masters Degree in Film Studies from 1988 to 1992. The year after graduation, she worked as an assistant director to Yeo Kyundong in the film Out of the World. In 1994 she directed the short film Promenade in the Rain, which won prizes at the Film Festivals in Seoul, Clermont, Hong Kong, Montecatini and Fribourg.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.