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International film award recipient Kim Bo-ra talks about her new movie

International film award recipient Kim Bo-ra talks about her new movie

Posted August. 20, 2019 07:43,   

Updated August. 20, 2019 07:46


Every human being has a universe inside. Being released on Aug. 29, the film “House of Hummingbird” depicts the universe of a 15-year-old girl named Eun-hee, who is played by Park Ji-hoo. Fluttering its wings 90 times per second, this 30-gram-heavy bird has a lot in common with Eun-hee, who strives hard to be loved in her relationships with her boyfriend, family and friends.

In a patriarchal family, Eun-hee has grown with an elder brother who is one of the top students at school and an elder sister who makes trouble. The girl finds her Chinese character teacher named Yeong-ji, played by Kim Sae-byeok, to be her emotional rock every time she is met with trouble with her boyfriend, juniors and friends. Minor cracks in her daily routine make a connection with the collapse accident of Seongsu Bridge in Seoul.

Showing a tragic accident in epic manner from a perspective of a young girl, this film has been presented various awards such as the Best Director Award and the Grand Prix in 25 international movie festivals including the 69th Berlin International Film Festival. It describes Korean-specific elements such as Eunma Apartment complex and cram schools in Daechi-dong where Eun-hee lives, teachers who keep an eye on mean troublemakers at school and the collapse of Seongsu Bridge. What is the secret to this movie’s message that members of jury at film festivals and audiences relate to?

In an interview held on Monday at Artnine in Dongjak-gu, Seoul, director Kim Bo-ra said that she was confirmed of the universal power that the movie holds when traveling around to meet global audiences.

“A bridge collapse accident occurred in Italy. People in Japan, which is ridden with disasters, appreciate the movie for healing their scars,” the director said. “The film was well received by audiences at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, which was established to cure the wounds caused by the September 11 attacks.”

The movie elicits sympathy from people as it talks about insecurity in relationship during youth and traumatic violence. “From the scenario stage, I kept asking to my friends all over the world, professors in their 60s and teenagers. I realized that there is common ground,” Kim said. “An investor staffer, whom I sent the movie scenario, once talked to me about his childhood stories. An investment was not made then but it was worthwhile for me to know that someone relates to me.”

The director paid a great effort to decide on shooting sites and props in order to express what life was like in 1994 when it was full of turbulence in Korea. She managed to acquire a unit at Eunma for shooting. Director Kim found and brought photo frames, old collections and plants in the balcony from her parents’ place and various props rooms to decorate Eun-hee’s house. As Eunma and apartment complex stores in Gaepo-dong still remain intact before they are demolished for regeneration, the director could use them as the backdrop to the film that shows the days in 1994.

Four years of meticulously editing the scenario allowed the director to add many dramatized elements to her childhood story. However, the movie still describes her memory with a cup of Oolong tea that her cram school tutor gave her when she was in middle school in a scene where Yeong-ji treats Eun-hee with a cup of warm tea.

“A phrase in Myeangsim Bogam taught in a Chinese letter cram school came across as impressive. A tutor in eyeglasses treated me so warmly,” Kim said. “The feeling of warm Oolong tea is still vivid in my memory. Small favors by grown-ups leave marks on the memories of young children.”

Just as Eun-hee grows up amid collapses of various relationships she is in, Korea still experiences growing pain as it has experienced the collapse accidents of a bridge and a department store and the sinking of a ship.

“I hope to make our lives better in a healthier way as we have been freer of a desire to impress the West,” said the director. “We have worked so hard and made great achievements but many people have been left in suffering and pain so far.”

Seo-Hyun Lee baltika7@donga.com