Two Korean films were awarded at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival (May 17 to 23) this year: director Lee Chang-dong
for Best Screenplay and director Hong Sang-soo
's "Ha Ha Ha"
with the Un Certain Regard Prize.
The film "Poetry"
, written and directed by Lee, is about an old lady in her 60s who stumbles across a chance to attend a poetry class and decides to relive her dreams of youth by starting to write a poem. Life is not as beautiful as it seems, however, when she sees her grandson Jongwook get entangled in a case of gang rape.
The film was lauded for its realistic depiction of the weight of life that makes a daunting task out of writing a poem. Korean actress Yoon Jung-hee
, returning to the screen after 16 years, stars as Mija, the old woman who struggles to write a poem.
"There were mounting expectations for Ms. Yoon to win the best actress award and I'm sorry she missed out", Lee Chang-dong
said. "But I'm glad to win recognition for the screenplay. I think it will provide new motivation for my next project".
"It's wonderful for our film to win the best screenplay award, but what makes me more proud is the great compliments we received from big French publications like Le Monde and Figaro", said Yoon. She used to be one of Korea's biggest actresses in Korea back in the 1960s and 70s.
is a highly successful Korean filmmaker, having directed 5 films and written the screenplays for a further two. Most of his works have awarded or been nominated for honors at international film festivals, for example "Oasis"
, "Peppermint Candy
" and "Green Fish"
. He also had a stint as minister of culture and tourism from 2003 to 2004.
This is the fifth time a Korean film has won a major award at the Cannes Film Festival, after "Chihwaseon"
(2002 Best Director award for lim Kwon-taek); "Old Boy"
(dir. by Park Chan-wook
, 2004 Jury Grand Prize); "Secret Sunshine"
(dir. by Lee Chang-dong
, 2007 Best Actress award for Jeon Do-yeon
); and "Thirst"
(dir. by Park Chan-wook
, 2009 Jury Prize).
's film "Ha Ha Ha"
is about an encounter between Jo Mun-kyung, a filmmaker and Bang Joong-sik, a film critic. They share their experiences of traveling to a small town in Tongyeong, Korea. They later find out they were both there at the same place, same time and talking about the same incident. The film, shot within a month, shows off the beautiful sites and weather of Tongyeong.
Hong has been invited to Cannes six times, but this was the first time he won any reward. It was also the first time in 26 years that a Korean film won the Un Certain Regard Prize since director Lee Doo-yong
's "Spinning the Tales of Cruelty Towards Women
" in 1984.
Director lim Sang-soo's "The Housemaid - 2010
", about a woman who becomes a maid to a rich household, received much attention for starring Jeon Do-yeon
, the 2007 Best Actress winner. Director lim himself already is quite known for his other award winning works like "A Good Lawyer's Wife
" (2003) and "The President's Last Bang
Although the film failed to win a prize, it still managed to be sold to 15 countries including France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Russia, Israel, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. Final coordination is underway with buyers from the United States and Japan.
Other Korean films invited to Cannes included "Bedevilled
" by newly debuting director Jang Cheol-soo
and "Frozen Land" directed by Kim Tae-yong-I
. Neither won any awards but still showed the growing potential in the Korean film industry.
Meanwhile, this year's Palm d'Or went to the Thai film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives", directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.