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[Interview] Kim Mooyoung


Apart from making movies, Kim Mooyoung has also engaged in exhibiting research-based media art, which is being introduced to several countries. His first film, "Concrete" revovled around an undocumenteed Korean in Los Angeles.

On the occasion of "Night Light - 2018" (festival entry) screening at Ulju Mountain Film Festival, we talk to him about the shooting a film in the mountains and the inspiration behind it, the difficulty of expressing ones feelings, his collaboration with the actors, and other topics.

"Night Light - 2018" was initially a short but eventually you made it into a feature. Can you tell us a bit about this?

My original idea was to make a film of less than 30 minutes and it was going to take place only in the summer. That is because one of the criteria UMFF gave me for the funding of the film is that it is less than 30 minutes. After I shot my summer part, I already had 50 minutes, so I thought I had to expand this, it is worth expanding to a feature movie.

Why did you decide to shoot a film that takes place in the mountains and what is your connection with such a setting?

When I am in the mountains, I get an inexplicable feeling that fills my heart. It is really hard to describe it in words, and it is always difficult to tell a story not through language, but through image and sound. These are the sources of inspiration for making "Night Light - 2018".

Can you tell us about the location the film was shot and the difficulties shooting in a mountain presented?

I once watched a documentary about a person who lives alone in the middle of the mountain, gathering mushrooms just like the protagonist in the film, in the mountains of Kangwon Province. After that, I thought it would be great to make a film that crosses the borders between documentary and fiction, and would star that person I saw in the documentary. I wanted to invite him to be my protagonist, but he was evicted from the mountain by his landlord. Therefore, I could not include him in my film and had to change it to straight fiction.

Then, the most difficult part for me was actually finding that house. The hut in the movie is not something I made, I found it in the mountains and it belongs to another mushroom gatherer, which proved  a good opportunity because I managed to get some stories from him and he told me all these details that I have to pay attention to. In the end, it worked out quite well.  

You edited the film on your own. Was that out of necessity or a conscious decision and did you find it difficult to edit your own work?

I always edit my own films and so it was only natural I would edit this one too. I want to make sure that I create and control the time and the rhythm of the film myself. The most difficult aspect of editing this film is that, because the production part was so long, watching the same scenes again and again, after a while I was confused about which is right and which is wrong. When that happened, I asked for help from other crewmembers, like my DOP.

The gap between the kid, who is obsessed with his mobile phone and the father, who lives in a house that does not even have electricity, seems quite large. Do you think that this is a gap that can be bridged, and if yes, how?

I was not thinking of a generational gap. For me, there is a gap resulting from situational differences that come out when two completely different people are put into a shared space. It just happened to be an older person and a kid. Because these two people share the space and share their time, I think that will lead, eventually, to bridging the gaps and their differences. Of course, it will not happen anytime soon, or completely, but I think it will happen.

The father seems to love his son but he does not express his feelings to him. Why?

Both father and son realize what their relationship is, but since they did not get a chance to share a time and a space before, they feel very uncomfortable about expressing their feelings. Especially the father believes that it is his fault his family was broken and because of that guilt, he cannot express himself.  

There are a number of scenes where Song Jae-ryong is coughing for long periods and really hard. Why did you choose to show this in the film and how hard was it for him to portray this part?

The character is really bad at expressing himself to anybody, he is really reserved and does not know how to speak out, so coughing is another way of putting his own stress and anguish out. It is a symbolic way of expressing that roughness that is inside his heart. Also, it is another sign that he is dying.

As for Song Jae-ryong, he was so great and he coughed so hard that I felt bad about having more takes, so I tried to minimize their number.

How was your cooperation with Song Jae-ryong and Ji Dae-han-I?

Before we started shooting, we discussed about the situation and the characters, their emotional state, and I made sure our conversations occurred in extensive length and depth, so that we have a complete understanding of where we are. Once we started shooting, I let them be the character, unless I felt that the rhythm, the tempo, or their emotions became too excessive; then I would intervene. Otherwise, I would let them perform their role.

How was the casting process like and was it difficult finding a boy to come to the mountains?

I contacted both of them after watching their previous work. When I watched Song Jae-ryong's work in a TV series, I got a kind of sense that he would understand my character very well, not just as an actor but also as a person. So. I contacted him and asked him to be in the movie and he accepted.

Ji Dae-han-I starred in a feature film and I felt that his acting was very natural, not excessive, unlike other actors his age who tend to seem and sound excessive. So. I contacted him and asked him to be in the movie and he said yes.

Can you give us some details about the ending sequence, with the puppies and the son in the snowed field?

I am going to break the sequence in three parts. The puppy scene is like a dream of the protagonist. Sometimes in dreams, you have a feeling of "is this something that I have experienced, something that happened to me and I just remembered it or is it just a dream?" which is confusing. It is that type of a dream. He dreams this scene because after sending his son away, he feels empty and thinks about all the things he should have done, and also about the things he should have done to save the family, a sense of guilt. The puppies also symbolize life and on the other side of the spectrum is death, therefore it shows how scared the man is about his upcoming death.

The scene that follows is about death and is related to the legend he was talking about.

The last scene, with the son in the snowy mountain, I wanted to come across as reincarnation. The very ending sequence is something I kept in mind from the beginning of the film. This is from my own experience with my dad, when we were hiking to go to our family's tomb (in Korea we have these small tombs in the mountains and we actually have to climb to reach our ancestors). When we were going there, my father asked me, "Do you know why Korean parents want to give everything to their children?" I said that I did not know and he said, "that is because we think our children are another version of us, and that means that you are me, which means my life will go on even after I die, so I can continue leaving through my children". That is my definition of incarnation, unlike its religious sense, but in social sense. That struck me very much, I wanted to include it in one of my films, and that part is a product of my experience with my father.

Are you working on anything new?

I am working on two projects. The first one is a documentary about anti-communism in Korea. I believe anti-communism is an ideology on itself and I am gathering all these phenomena and the events that embody this ideology. I am trying to approach the core of this ideology by juxtaposing these events one next to each other so that the audience can make a connection among them. It is going to be very unconventional in terms of narrative and form.

The second one is fiction and I am going to pitch it at Busan Asian Project Market. It is about a woman who works in an automated factory, lives a very isolated life, and does not have any special skills. That is why she has some trouble with the people around her. One day, she is contacted by her father whom she has not heard from for a very long time, and he informs her that he will move her deceased mother's tomb, from the mountains to the city. She is against it, that creates more conflict in the family, and then the story unfolds from there.

Interview by Panos Kotzathanasis



"Night Light - 2018" is directed by Kim Mooyoung, and features Song Jae-ryong, Ji Dae-han-I, Jung Ah-mi, Kang Young-gu. Release date in Korea: No release date yet.


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