Korean director Im Kwon-taek
(69) became the first Asian awarded the Honorary Golden Bear at the 55th Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday. The award, given in recognition of lifetime service to film, has been given to only 18 people, including Elia Kazan, Sophia Loren and Oliver Stone. Festival director Dieter Kosslick said that in terms of the director's prolific nature and diverse range of topics, Im was an unrivaled figure in Asian film. He praised Im's clear, beautiful point of view, innovative film technique and the emotion he evoked in the 99 films the director had directed in 40 years.
Director Im agreed to a telephone interview with the Chosun Ilbo early Sunday morning, immediately after the award ceremony.
How do you feel about being the first Asian to win the Honorary Golden Bear?
When I was informed that I had been selected for the award, I said it was the greatest honor I had ever received in my film career, but now that I have received the award, I feel a bit different. Today was really thanks to the prestige of Korean film. The global film world has finally confirmed that prestige, and I think I received the award simply as a representative of Korean film.
Who did you think of when you received the award?
I've been making films since 1962. Since getting the award, I've been thinking of all the seniors and juniors that have raised me as we made films together. I've sometimes mistakenly believed that I made films alone, but I realized that wasn't the case. All those people went through my mind like a revolving lantern. I also thought of my wife, even though she was sitting right before me".
The influential German paper Spiegel described you as the "godfather of Korean film".
"That's just people lifting me up. I'm flattered. I think they just used a punchy line, though. I've thought such self-important thoughts from time to time. I think, well, perhaps I'm not so creatively limited. In the end, however, when I earned this award, I felt that my creativity still isn't that great".
You won a director's prize in Cannes, but you've never received an award in Berlin.
My first experience with the Berlin Film Festival was 1982, when my film 'Mandara' was submitted for competition. Later, "Seopyeonje"
were submitted, but I never won. Listening to why I was selected for the Golden Bear, I heard that seven or so of my works were selected for the Berlin Film Festival. People laughed when I said, 'Normally, I felt Berlin was a major wall, so I was quite surprised when it gave me the Honorary Golden Bear.
Immediately after the award ceremony, they played "Chunhyang"
as the opening film of a special retrospective in your honor.
I was allowed to select which film would start off the retrospective, but I thought this wasn't something I could decide as I wished. I thought the story of Chunghyang was the greatest of Korea's classic novels, and even in pansori (Korea dramatic singing), it's the story told the most. Leaving behind the fact that I directed it, I chose it thinking it was something Korea could boast of.