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Based on a True Story?

2006/01/15 | 4869 views | Permalink | Source

Recent Films Use Fictional Elements to Help Recount Real Events

By Kim Tae-jong
Staff Reporter

After "Memories of Murder", a thriller about a real-life serial-murder case in the 1980s, became the biggest hit of 2003, a slew of films that are all "based on a true story" have hit local theaters. However, most of these movies have found a dose of fiction to be a critical element to make these "true" stories come alive for viewers.

Recent films that use history as its basis include "Silmido" (2003) and "The President's Last Bang" (2004) and "Blue Swallow" and the upcoming Holiday this year. All these films mix reenactments of true incidents with fictionalized accounts and characters to offer varying degrees of reality.

According to the producer of the upcoming film Holiday, about the life of Ji Kang-hun, an escaped convict in the late 1980s, fictional elements are crucial for a movie's commercial success.

"What matters when you make a film based on a true story is what you can add to make it more interesting and attractive", Shin Jung-soo said.

The story about Ji has been one of subjects that many directors dream of making into a film, but creating interesting fictional accounts and characters has been always a problem, Shin said.

In the end, the makers of the film came up with a fictional character of a cruel prison warden to represent the opposite side of Ji.

In addition to being entertaining, fictional accounts and characters can also help dig out and explain the possible truth behind what was officially reported or known.

"Blue Swallow", now showing at theaters, is a story about Park Kyung-won, a female pilot in the 1920s. In an attempt to show what her life and ambitions would have been like, the film introduces various fictional characters, including friends and a lover.

Other movies that tried to shed light on socially and politically sensitive issues include "Silmido", a story about a unit of commandoes who were trained to go on a suicide mission to kill the North Korean leader in the late 1960s, and the black comedy "The President's Last Bang", a fictionalized account of the president's death on Oct. 26, 1979.

But when filmmakers create fictional characters in controversial historical incidents and figures, they are not as free as they expect, especially when movies deal with the modern history as it often faces a strong opposition from people still alive who were involved in the real events.

The director and actors of "Blue Swallow" had to deal with criticism that the movie embellished a pro-Japanese Korean who participated in many propaganda activities during the Japanese colonial rule despite the director's explanation that the film is more about a woman who struggled for her dream in a turbulent period.

The production and release of "Silmido" was threatened by those involved in the real accidents, who claimed the film disgraced them and distorted the truth. The making of the "President's Last Bang" was kept secret in fear that people involved in the historical events would try to stop the production of the movie.

But to avoid such troublesome reactions and hindrances, some directors go further back in history.

Recent historical piece "The King and the Clown", which has enjoyed a huge popularity already drawing 4 million moviegoers, simply took three historical figures from the history of Choson Period and recreated a whole new story out of them.

Such figures as notorious tyrant king Yonsan, royal concubine Jangnoksu and king's court jester Kong-gil existed in the history but the film look at their relationship with the creation of characters such as clown leader Jang-saeng.

Along with sensational or big historical events, small and ordinary life stories have been also made into films.

Last year's hit tender human drama "Running Boy" (Marathon) and "Long and Winding Road" took a motive from the lives of two real people, which had been already introduced in television documentary programs.

The real person behind the story of "Running Boy" (Marathon) was 21-year-old autistic man with a strong passion for running, and a widow in her 70s, who walks a long way to see her daughter instead of taking a car because her carsickness was a motive for "Long and Winding Road".

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