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Art Films

Posted August. 09, 2006 04:30,   


On the afternoon of August 7, a preview of “Time,” a new movie by Kim Ki-deok, was held at a movie theater in Jongno-gu, Seoul. Kim was wearing dark-colored sunglasses because he “could not speak looking his acquaintances in the eye.”

He surprised participants in the preview by saying, “I will not release my movies in Korea any more.” Kim, who had not appeared in public to be caught by domestic press, spilled what he had felt was wrong with the Korean film world, as if he was determined to be frank this day. 95,000 people saw “3-Iron,” which was awarded “Best Director” in the 2004 Venice Film Festival, and only 1,400 saw “The Bow,” which was released in one theater last year. If there had not been for Sponge, an art movie distributor, Koreans might have been able to see “Time” only through a DVD imported from overseas.

I wanted to know Kim’s thoughts and feelings deep in his heart, but he did not respond to my request for an interview. Producer Kang Yeong-ku, who had worked with Kim, said, “He is not a director who makes movies popular to the public. But who likes his movie to be stored away? He just expressed his regrets over the Korean film world in general.”

On the same day, Bong Jun-ho, a director of “The Host,” a big hit movie making new records all over, said in an interview with a radio show, “The Host showing in 600 of about 1,600 theaters in total is only possible in Korea’s unique conditions. We need sort of a ‘minority quota’ system to protect movies made for diverse small audiences.”

Art movie directors and blockbuster movie directors share the same awareness of the reality in which small movies are being cornered.

It is not only distributors or theaters that are to blame. Theaters run films to make money. We cannot ask them to reserve a screen for a small-audience movie simply for the development of art movies.

Fighting against the move to reduce screen quotas, the Korean film world argued for the need to secure cultural diversity against the aggressive invasion of Hollywood movies. However, there is hardly a difference between Korean mega-distributors and Hollywood from the perspective of art-movie makers. There is no major league without a minor league. We should secure “cultural diversity within us” through a protective system to give small movies a chance to show in theaters as Bong said.

Kim said he would like to see “Time” attract at least 200,000 people. This movie was received well as the opening movie in the Czech Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Will Kim’s wish come true?