"Forever the Moment
", directed by Yim Soon-rye
, has rolled to victory at the box office, striking a positive note for Korean films ahead of the crucial lunar New Year holiday season.
The film, based on the true story of the Korean women's handball team which competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics, is gaining momentum in ticket sales, reflecting its appeal to local moviegoers as a rare sports drama.
Released on Jan. 10, "Forever the Moment
" has sold 854,000 tickets as of Monday, according to its production house, MK Pictures. If the current trend continues, the film is expected to break the 1 million mark as early as today.
The sports film's strong performance comes amid lingering skepticism about the Korean film industry's declining competitiveness. Latest statistics show that the overall number of moviegoers declined, local filmmakers lost ground and Hollywood blockbusters flexed stronger muscles last year.
The movie's strength comes from Lee, an award-winning female director known for her sophisticated storytelling, as well as from a star-studded cast including Moon So-ri
and Kim Jung-eun
Notably, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is pitching in to promote the film. On Friday, Culture Minister Kim Jong-min, and other ranking officials attended a special screening of the film at a theater in Myeongdong, downtown Seoul, along with other sports-related figures including Kim Jong-ha, president of the Korea Sports Council, and Jung Hyung-kyun, vice president of the Korea Handball Federation.
The film features the Korean squad which grabbed the silver medal in Athens, overcoming all obstacles, including public indifference to handball. The team eventually lost to Denmark in the final game but they did not go down easily. They held on for 80 minutes until the final game, with two periods of extra time.
The Korean team lost in a penalty shootout following a 34-34 tie, a heartbreaking loss, but loudly and passionately applauded by spectators, reflecting the competitors' unwavering spirit and teamwork. "Forever the Moment
" depicts the dramatic moments realistically, with celebrity actresses showing a decent level of handball skill honed during an intensive three-month training period.
In a country where handball is regarded as an unpopular sport, the Korean women players have been putting in enormous amounts of time and energy to practice, and the film is said to steer some public attention to the poor conditions facing Korean handball players.
Meanwhile, a host of Korean films are expected to be released in the following weeks, ahead of the lunar New Year season, which is widely recognized as the crucial period for local filmmakers to secure revenues in an increasingly intensifying battle against Hollywood blockbusters.
By Yang Sung-jin