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Minister Returns as Director of 'Sunshine'

2007/04/10 Source

By Bae Keun-min
Staff Reporter

A piano teacher and her son come to her husband's hometown in a province after the death of her husband. However, she even loses her son in the town. She is cornered into great grief and feeling of loss. How can she live her life when she loses the people she loves the most?

Director Lee Chang-dong's new film "Miryang", or "Secret Sunshine", portrays the woman, Sin Ae, in despair and a man, Chong-chan, owner of a car service center, who comes to love her despite her rejections.

"I made this film with a burning heart", said Lee in a press conference in Seoul Tuesday. "As I made the film, my first in four years, my body, mind and senses were just like a player's who participates in a game after a long hiatus".

The movie is his first since "Oasis" (2002), which gave him the Special Director's Award at the 59th Venice International Film Festival. "Secret Sunshine" is his fourth film.

"You may think it is a melodrama or a love story, but it is not the love story you commonly think of", the 52-year-old director said. "The audience will evaluate the film. But I kept thinking that I have to make it not to be ashamed of (myself and the movie)".

The title Miryang is the name of the town in South Kyongsang Province, where the movie was filmed. But the name can also mean a Secret Sunshine or a town with a lot of sunshine, Lee said, adding that the title is related to the film's theme.

Great interest in the film was aroused when Lee announced his new project but not only because it is Lee's first flick since he resigned as Minister of Culture and Tourism. It also features two sought-after movie stars, actress Jeon Do-yeon and actor Song Kang-ho, who perform in the same film for the first time. Lee held the post from February 2003 to June 2004.

"Every time I make a film, I get tired, pressured and nervous as if I'm doing it for the first time. I want to communicate with the audience, which does not necessarily mean communication with the larger group of audiences but an understanding in depth", Lee said. "I made the film, targeting neither the box-office profits nor international film awards".

In "Secret Sunshine" Lee and Song work together again for the first time since Lee's debut movie "Green Fish" (1997). "He (Song) is like a relative or psychological brother to me, thus although it has been 10 years since we worked together I have felt as if he and I have been together", Lee said. "He is an actor of great, keen sense".

The film is a new challenge for Song as he has never been in a melodrama. Song won the Best Actor Award at the Asian Film Awards last month with the film "The Host".

"Jeon and I debuted around the same time and have been good friends for the past 10 years. I am glad that we are finally in the same film", 39-year-old Song said. "The movie is mainly about Jeon's role and her story".

Jeon, 34, who recently married, said she had decided to play in the film even before she read the script mainly because it was Lee's film. But she considered changing her decision after she read the script, wondering whether she was capable of performing the role, Jeon said, adding she had hard time acting for this film.

"There was a scene that I had to ask to stop filming and postpone it, which was the first time in my acting career, as I couldn't figure what was the emotion that I had to portray", Jeon said. "Although it hurt my pride, I think I made the right choice". The scene was when Shin Ae receives the first phone call from a kidnapper of her son.

Jeon appears on the screen with almost no make-up and disheveled hair to show an ordinary person in the real world. "I tried hard to erase `Jeon Do-yeon' from the character as much as I could".

The film industry is keeping an eye on "Secret Sunshine" to see if it indicates that Korean films can take the initiative back from Hollywood blockbusters. Korean films have recently been struggling at cinemas, largely because many of them are poorly finished.

"The film industry has grown so much compared to what it was some four years ago. However, I wonder if the growth has been based on economical efficiency", Lee said. "I believe the industry will be on the right track soon".

"Secret Sunshine" will open nationwide on May 17.

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