Sunday, June 3, 2012

Remember O Goddess - Interview with Director Yoon Jung Lee: Part 2

Yoon Jung Lee

As promised, although a bit late, here is Part 2 of my interview with Yoon Jung Lee, director of "Remember O Goddess". Part 1 can be found here.

I asked these questions before the Kickstarter campaign was finished, which is why question 4 here is as it is.

Remember, while the Kickstarter campaign is successfully finished, you can still donate to the film through its official website and Chip In! plugin.

Orion: There are two things that more dark Korean movies display quite a bit. One is violence in all forms and just how scary human beings can become. But violence is also a pure human instinct of sorts. The second element, which is the one that I personally find scarier, is apathy and the isolation that comes from it. The main character in "Remember O Goddess" faces that apathy and lack of attention from others and struggles because of it. We become blind to other people's pain and ignore it. Do you feel this apathy and denial are strong traits of Korean (or maybe Asian in general) society or do you meet them in the West as well?

Yoon Jung Lee: I face that isolation and segregation in the US more than in Korea, and I am amazed by how much people take it for granted in their daily lives. Maybe it’s because western society was modernized earlier than Asia. I feel that people from American culture don’t expect from each other as much as Koreans do. But that doesn’t mean that they feel okay in this situation. It seems that their isolated lives are described helpless in the movies like ‘Magnolia,’ ‘Synecdoche New York,’ or ‘American Beauty,’ which I accidentally like most. The small difference is that Korean movies, including REMEMBER O GODDESS, focus on the moment when the characters discover this cruel reality while American movies illustrates the human condition that’s been shaped in such a way for a long time.

O: One big source of pain for fans of Korean entertainment around the world is its availability. DVDs are scarce, online legal downloading is non-existent (although it will hopefully happen one day) and buying from Korea can cost a quite a bit. Many members of the fandom even result to piracy because of monetary and availability issues. Living in Europe, it seems Korea sometimes does not even know we exist. In your experience, is this lack of availability due to budget and legal issues or are our numbers not impressive enough for Korea to invest in bringing its entertainment to us and to the West in general?

Y: Since I live in the US, I know how hard it is to get access to the recent Korean films in DVD format or legal online streaming/download. I can imagine that it’s more difficult in Europe. I thought that there were not enough size of Korean film audience in Europe so Korean film industry can’t afford to explore its market, but I learned through my film’s fundraising campaign that European audience is very enthusiastic about Korean cinema. Korean film companies actually don’t invest in DVD making as much as they did since people don’t buy DVDs any more. They are searching for the various ways to legally distribute the films. I hope that they will invest in European market sooner or later.

O: Having followed a few Korean movies online, it seems there is mostly interaction between Korean audiences and these accounts, but not much happening with the English-speaking community. It's also pretty tough for foreign fans to get information, have their opinions heard and be part of the buzz from abroad. When it comes to "Remember O Goddess" there are people showing interest and support for your work from all over the globe. Is that multicultural interaction something Korean film-makers get to experience often or is it more present in such independent and more multicultural productions?

Y: There were several Korean independent films that were very successful in international film festival circuit. Their success in famous film festivals brought attention to the films in Korea. So it became the last goal of Korean independent filmmakers to get their films in those big festivals. But I didn’t want to depend on that hope since I didn’t know what kind of films those programmers of several film festivals liked. I expected that there would be people from all over the world who were willing to actively engaged in Korean cinema when I decided to raise funds for my film on Kickstarter. As you see, I was more than right. As a Korean filmmaker, it’s so fantastic to observe that the supports of my film are building strong and personal community beyond the national borders. They talk to each other or help each other like old friends through the film’s facebook page or their twitter accounts. It seems that they’ve been waiting for the opportunities to participate in what they love and support and are now enjoying the chance as much as they can. I believe that they deserve higher volume of their voice. I hope our project will be able to explore a new path for connecting global audience and Korean cinema and continue the dynamic interaction.

O: If the Kickstarter campaign does not reach its mark (although we are all hoping it will), what plans do you have for the future? Can we still hope and can we still help to get this film out there and if it does succeed with Kickstarter, have you thought about marketing for the completed film? Will you focus on Korea or keep promoting it globally?

Y: Due to the delay of my answers, I should answer this question only partly, because we’ve already finished the campaign successfully. Of course I want to keep promoting our film globally. REMEMBER O GODDESS is the first globally crowd-funded Korean film, so it will be the first example for the following attempts in Korean films. I hope that this project will be able to open a new gate for my fellow filmmakers in Korea. Even during the Kickstarter campaign, our backers gave me great advices for promoting the project in each region. All of our backers formed a voluntary promotion team for REMEMBER O GODDESS. 272 is not a small number for a promotion team for an individual film. I will update our backers about the progress of the film as frequently as possible and ask them to advise at each stage.

O: Lastly, do you have any comments, thoughts, observations, requests or even criticisms you would like to share with me and my readers?

Y: Before I started the campaign, I thought that I was going to raise monetary funds through Kickstarter, but it turned out that I had earned the strong supporters’ group that’s worth much more than the amount of money that we raised. As I stated above, I think that all of our backers are one team. Readers who missed the Kickstarter campaign can still join our team by contributing through our official website. I hope more Korean film lovers can participate in the new chapter of the interaction between Korean independent film movement and international audience.

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