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Rural Men Seek Uzbek Brides

Posted November. 10, 2005 03:34,   


The storyline for the movie “Wedding Campaign” (directed and written by Hwang Byung-gook) is so simple it can be summarized in a single line: Old bachelors from a farming village leave for Uzbekistan in search of brides.

An abundance of episodes and inspiring characters make this movie a rustic, but humane drama.

“Wedding Campaign” received the spotlight early on when it was selected as the closing piece for the 10th Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF). PIFF selected this movie because it is a “melodrama that is warm, humorous and with a lingering note,” and it is “a sincere ode to the outsiders who bear the burdens of life, but gladly live their lives to the fullest.”

Man-taek (Jung Jae-young) and Hee-cheol (Yoo Jun-sang) are 38-year-old bachelors living in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province. Though they are completely different in character, the two have been best friends since childhood. Man-taek is an innocent and simple farmer, while Hee-cheol is a cheeky but lovable taxi driver. Suffering from ill-treatment at home because they have missed the “marriage timing,” the two friends pool their fortunes to leave for Uzbekistan in search of their soul mates. There, Man-taek meets a smart and energetic local interpreter, Lara (Su-ae), who fixes him up with a blind date. However, there is no way that the Man-taek, who is so shy he cannot even look at a woman, can succeed in a blind date.

This movie is outstanding because of the fact that it is a well-made popular movie. The characters and the drama are alive, due to great acting and well-organized directing. Jung Jae-young, who has a bucket-shaped hairdo and gained more than 15kg to look like a rural character, and Yoo Jun-sang, who permed his hair, developed a potbelly and tanned his skin, really resemble young men from the rural area.

The comical and cheerful acting of these two actors who seem to have become one with their characters makes the movie entertaining and convincing.

The discovery of Hwang Byung-gook, who wrote the scenario and directed the movie, is another great harvest from this movie. He exhibits talented storytelling and directing skills throughout this movie, which he said was inspired by a documentary dealing with the story of a rural bachelor going to Uzbekistan in search of a bride. By making good use of familiar rural landscapes and Uzbekistan’s foreign landscapes, he succeeds in portraying the sorrows of rural bachelors in a tone that is not too light and not too heavy.

The sweetness of the Yecheon dialect, the scene where the two friends are beaten by their mothers when they get drunk and sing with a loud voice at the community hall, the story of Man-taek, who is forced to learn Russian by Lara and has a hard time learning it, are all factors that provide the audience with satisfying laughs.

There is also a subtle social message in the movie. The line, “Importing rice and garlic…now we are importing women too” makes a statement about the conditions in the rural areas of the nation. The movie also touches matters on North Korean fugitives through Lara.

If one word is used to express this movie, it would be “sentiment.” Not the passionately burning type of sentiment, but one that slowly heats up and stays warm for a long time. In this movie flows the sentiment felt among family members, friends, and lovers.

Though the movie portrays the pain and loneliness of those living in the peripheries of the world, the overall tone is bright and positive. How long has it been since we have laughed along with stories of good people? I would like to meet the characters, who may actually be living somewhere in the rural area.

Wedding Campaign will be released on November 23. For ages 12 and up.

Mi-Seok Koh mskoh119@donga.com