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Peter Sohn visits Korea for new movie ‘Elemental’

Posted May. 31, 2023 07:57,   

Updated May. 31, 2023 07:57


Peter Sohn (46, photo), the first Korean-American director from Disney-Pixar, visited South Korea after seven years with his animated film "Elemental." Following his debut animation "The Good Dinosaur" in 2016, "Elemental" marks Sohn's second film that connects with Korean audiences. The film depicts a story set in "Element City," where the four elements—water, fire, earth, and wood—reject mixing with one another. Based on Sohn's personal experiences as a second-generation immigrant, the production also involved Korean animator Lee Chae-yeon. The film received acclaim, including a standing ovation lasting five minutes, when it premiered as the closing film at the 76th Cannes Film Festival, and it will be released in Korea on the 14th of next month.

During a press conference held on Tuesday at CGV Yongsan I'Park Mall in Seoul, director Sohn spoke about "Elemental" and his own experiences.

In the neighborhood where I grew up in New York, there were Koreans as well as people from India and Mexico. Some communities blended well, but others did not. I wanted to portray how we can understand each other and overcome our differences in the film, given my personal experiences of encountering xenophobia and discrimination."

In "Elemental," hot-tempered yet passionate Ember and cheerful, sentimental Wade meet and fall in love. Ember's parents leave their previous home, Fireland, where only fire elements gathered, and arrive in Element City, where they face rejection from the other elements due to the nature of fire that consumes everything. Ember, who dreams of inheriting her father's grocery store, which he has struggled with since she was young, strives to gain recognition from her father. However, when she encounters Wade, who has arrived through a pipe along with other elements, she embarks on a journey to find her true dream.

As director Sohn revealed, his life is woven into various aspects of the film. His parents emigrated to the United States in the late 1960s and ran a grocery store there. Sohn said, "As the eldest, I was supposed to inherit the store, so I fought a lot with them over my passion for drawing. My mother even tore my drawings." In the film, Firetown is depicted as a place with an Asian cultural background. Particularly, a scene where a departing child bows to their parents stands out. Sohn tried to incorporate the image of his father, who understood and empathized with customers even without speaking English, into his characters. He said, "I wanted to capture the value of diverse people that I felt while growing up in the film." He added, "It is truly an honor to share this film with Korean audiences in Korea."

Ji-Sun Choi aurinko@donga.com