- FILM & PEOPLE
- K-Cinema Library
A BRAND NEW LIFE
Feb 25, 2019
- Writerby Pierce Conran
2009 | 92 MIN | Drama
DIRECTOR Ounie LECOMTE
CAST KIM Sae-ron, PARK Do-yeon, KO Asung
RELEASE DATE October 29, 2009
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The last few years have seen an explosion of works detailing the experiences of people who were born in Korea but adopted and reared overseas, such as last year’s Berlinale-invited The Return. Conflicting cultural identities form the core of this body of films as overseas filmmakers with Korean heritage have sought to explore their roots, their films often becoming a product of their own search for identity. 10 years ago, perhaps the most important work in this cycle of films was released, Ounie LECOMTE’s sensational orphanage drama A Brand New Life (2009).
Loosely based on the director’s own experiences, A Brand New Life takes place in 1975 and focuses on the nine-year-old Jin-hee, who is having a wonderful day out with her father. They go out to eat, ride on his bicycle and he buys her new clothes. The day ends as he drops her off at an orphanage and swiftly disappears. Unbeknownst to her, this is the last time she will ever see her father.
What follows are Jin-hee’s experiences at the orphanage, which is run by nuns and attempts to find parents from overseas to adopt the children. Jin-hee struggles with her father’s abandonment but gradually grows closer to the young girls around her, even as they come and go.
LECOMTE’s work got off to the best possible start, as it was invited to the ‘Special Screenings’ lineup of the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, an invitation that would be followed by many more, including the Toronto International Film Festival and the Tokyo International Film Festival, where it earned the prize for Best Asian Film.
Taking place almost exclusively in a girls’ orphanage run by nuns, A Brand New Life is populated by female characters while the male characters are largely specters who negatively influence the characters within the orphanage’s walls. We are never given a good look at the face of Jin-hee’s father, though any fan of Korean cinema will immediately recognize acting veteran SUL Kyung-gu in the cameo.
A Brand New Life is also significant for introducing KIM Sae-ron to the world, as she plays the lead in her first ever role. KIM of course went on to box office glory the following year with The Man From Nowhere (2010) and has continued to impress critics and viewers alike in works such as A Girl at My Door, which saw her return to Cannes in 2014.
Since A Brand New Life, LECOMTE has so far made one further film, the 2015 French drama Looking for Her.