THE 8th OKINAWA INTERNATIONAL MOVIE FESTIVAL: EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HA JUNG-WOO
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH HA JUNG-WOO
As one of the special guests of the 8th Okinawa International Movie Festival (OIMF), South Korean actor and director Ha Jung-woo attended the festival to present his latest movie, ‘Chronicle of a Blood Merchant’ (허삼관) in the Special Invitation segment on April 22nd. The 2015 South Korean film, written and directed Jung-woo himself, was based on the Chinese best selling novel written by Yu Hua in 1995. The interview was held in AEON Mall Kitanagasuku’s Cinema Rycom after his stage appearance for the screening.
Q: I saw ‘Chronicle of a Blood Merchant’ last year on February 2015. Aside of the family conflicts, I found the film depicts very informative things about an illegal blood donor in 1950s Korea. What is the particular reason you choose this Yu Hua’s 1995 Chinese novel as your second directorial movie?
A: When I read that novel written by Yu Hua, I thought it was so interesting and could be shaped with a good style of filmmaking. I loved the story but what interest me the most is it has black comedy and really good characters. I also have seen the previous films of Mr. Ahn Dong-gyu (producer of ‘The Perfect Match’ (2002), ‘APT’ (2006), ‘Traces of Love’ (2006), ‘The Grand Heist’ (2012)) who has been developing this project for almost 20 years. When he came to me with this project, I decided to take this project cause I think it will be a very interesting movie.
Q: Is there any difference or particular interest to you both as an actor or director in choosing your project?
A: Definitely. As an actor, I focused on thinking about the audience first. How audience going to take the film, if it could be accepted by the audience. But as a director, I directed two films so far, ‘Rollercoaster / ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ (2013) and this film, I focused on thinking if it’s fit into my style in directing a movie.
Q: But these two films were actually having a very different tone, although both can be described as a black comedy, or at least had that element.
A: Yes, I supposed you could say so.
Q: Okay, since my other profession is also a doctor, I always admire how Korean movies featured the details of medical scenes right, and so ‘Chronicles of a Blood Merchant’ in its medical elements, whether in details and in the film’s 50s sets. Is there any medical consultant you hired in the process of making this film?
A: Really? Great and thanks for saying that. I didn’t really hire a medical consultant in this movie but I did research at the library a lot and lot of helps, too on the sets. The thing is I really think it’s very important to lawn how it actually happened in Korea, and I learned that in twenty years from the ‘50s to ‘70s when we didn’t have more than red cross, yet that the illegal blood donation had happened in Korea. So I studied a lot in the library and I have to localize some based evidence from the actual China set in the novel into the ‘50s Korea sets in my movie, including what it possibly did to Korean society those times, too.
Q: We have CGV cinema chain in Indonesia. They imported a lot Korean movies into our theatres and it’s getting really big now. I think you should know that most of your movies always released in Indonesian theatres since ‘The Berlin File’, means you are one of the most famous Korean actors in our country. What’s your vision about Korean cinema these days, why it’s growing bigger and even beat Chinese of Japanese movies? Is it the perspective of emotions that appeared in most of your movies like many people said or do you think of other factors?
A: (laugh) Thanks, I’m so happy to know that. I’ve been to Bali and East Timor, too. Hope one day I can come to present my own film there. So about our movies, I think the people in our cinema industry have a really strong passion to make our best out of filmmaking even we don’t have enough budgets. That issue became the strong power to make the best out of it, and of course the money is quite important to make great films but actually we cannot buy those passions with money. I also think it’s not only in the Korean film industry but also in every country, but when it comes to Korean films, maybe passion is our power. The idea isn’t always thoroughly original, but our filmmakers wrapped it with more hearts and passions, and also our strong culture, I could say so.
Q: Your female lead, Ha Ji-won is also a very well known Korean actress in Indonesia. Is she your first choice to play Hae Ok-ran in this movie?
A: You saw the film, so you know that she played the role from a beautiful girlfriend to a mother, it’s a 15 year life span role. So when I thought who can play the role with that kind of difficulties, Ha Ji-won comes first to my mind. I thought she’s the best female actress to play the role, and it’s not only my idea but also the producers. They also thought that she would fit best for the role.
Q: How about yourself? Did you also think you’re the best choice to portray the role since the casting process?
A: (thinking) I’m sorry, I couldn’t answer that question, actually. I may need to-think a little bit more (laugh).
Q: No problem (laugh). So among your upcoming projects, which interests you the most?
A: As you may already know, I had Park Chan Wook’s ‘Agasshi (The Handmaiden)’ is coming up in June after the world premiere in Cannes, then ‘Tunnel’ is coming in August, and there’s this new project I’m gonna start shooting next month, it’s a Kim Yong-hwa’s film titled ‘With God’. I think each movie has different challenges to me as an actor. It’s really hard to choose one.