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Ko - production in Busan
  • YEON Sang-ho, Director of THE FAKE
  • by LEE Ju-hyun /  Nov 08, 2013
    Photo ⓒCine21 

    We might as well call him the KIM Ki-duk of animation. YEON Sang-ho’s works are full of poignant stories targeted at the very heart of society, confident expressions, and a straightforward production style. These are some of the traits that he shares with KIM. YEON has become one of the most promising Korean independent animation directors since Love Is Protein (2008) and The Window (2012). He also manifested his talent as a storyteller with his first full-length animation The King of Pigs (2011).
    The Fake is his first animation in the two years since then. The story in The Fake goes as following: a rural village is going to be submerged and its residents are compensated for relocation. A swindler named CHOI deceives the poor villagers with a false religion to make them give up their compensations as church offerings. Min-chul, an infamous local good-for-nothing, discovers the truth, but he is unable to convince anyone; especially concerning Reverend SUNG, who is revered by the people, but who in fact is the one CHOI had scouted to serve his purpose. With this story, YEON aims to ask “Is what people believe to be true really true?” The Fake received the best film award at Sitges Film Festival this year, and has been warmly received in the international market ahead of its domestic release.
    - The Fake has been invited to Toronto International Film Festival and AFI Film Festival in the US. How has it been received by international audiences?
    I’ll be leaving for the AFI Film Festival on November 7th. I could not make it to the Sitges or Toronto Film Festival, as my schedule is busy with my next animation project. So I am also curious about how The Fake will be received in the international market. The King of Pigs had mixed responses from the US and Europe. As it deals with school bullying, I guess it was better received in North America where it is a sensitive issue. They also found it new and interesting as they had not been exposed to Korean independent animations before. The only widely known Asian animator is MIYAZAKI Hayao. They found my work quite different from the pretty and detailed pictures of Ghibli Studios and perhaps found mine new and interesting.
    -  You have drawn a lot of attention around the world since The King of Pigs. What would you say is the biggest difference for you before and after the film’s release?
    Now I can talk with investors directly and I can do so comfortably. I have many people around me whom I can discuss the big picture with. The biggest change is that I am now able to meet several partners with whom I can talk about this, my future projects and the Korean animation industry in general.
    - You work very fast. It is not easy to get a full-length animation done within a year. I wonder how you manage your schedule.
    For The Fake, the scenario was done even before The King of Pigs was shot. I made The Window, a mid-length animation, right after The King of Pigs, and when I was done with The Window in 2012, I started up preproduction on The Fake. The continuity took me 4-5 months, and actual production only took seven months. Actually, making an animation within a short term like this is not a rare thing. People around me, once they see how I work, often tell me that it seems do-able.
    The two things that can take up a lot of time are scenario and funding. When these two are taken care of, there is no reason why it should take a long time for production. One problem is that few Korean investors understand the difference between the feature film system and animation system. Fortunately, The Fake was funded by the major domestic investment and distribution company NEW, and the path has been pretty smooth. We also saved time by using the 3E dummy animation system and cartoon rendering method.
    - For The Fake, how did you come up with the idea in the first place?
    I was not at all satisfied by what was going on in politics back then, which led me to write a scenario based on my political dissatisfaction. I got the scenario done in 2009, in which time the political scene was very problematic with issues of the FTA and Four River Development. Depending on who is speaking, some statements are taken as true and others as fraud, which I found very interesting. Then I was drawn to pseudo religion issues. I thought it would be interesting if you could mix mysteries like the TV show X File with Korean pseudo religion issues.
    - You depict the adversarial structure of the bad guy who is telling the truth and the good guy who is telling a lie.
    When a good looking person tells a lie in a soft and educated voice, and when an opposite kind of person is telling the truth in coarse language, most people would believe the former. Social statuses are handed down to children, and chances are, the rich stay rich in second and third generations. They are well educated, and they can also be warm hearted. However, what they say is, more often than not, politically and socially wrong, and makes the social structure stay as it is now.
    However, when you are begin with poverty, chances are, you are uneducated and have coarse manners. Your logic is not as smooth and the way you talk is not sophisticated. Therefore people would not want to listen to what you say. Even if they talk about universal values and good virtues, they are not communicated. Looking at such social phenomenon, I came with the idea for The Fake and its characters.
    - The King of Pigs deals with a school bully, and The Window depicts violence in the army. You keep discussing power and class, and repeatedly employ a narrative structure where you show the have-nots struggle within themselves rather than their struggle against the haves.
    I myself am not one of the haves. I wanted to depict one of the many dimensions of the society I live in. The Fake shows innocent and stupid people who fall for a pseudo religion. However, I wanted to add a convincing logic to their acts. They are the have-nots, or, rather, just ordinary people. I am drawn to their struggling life and their tragedy. In fact, because I am less aware of the haves and their thoughts, I guess it is hard for me to tell a story from their perspective.
    - Tell us about Seoul Station, your next project. 
    For a long time I have been wanting to depict society’s collective rage, and Seoul Station is the film where I can discuss it. Simply put, it is a movie featuring zombies. I don’t think there is a specific moment or target for the people’s rage. Rather, it is more like a monolithic rage against big entities such as the nation. Sociologists would focus at certain points on the nation and its system and would address them as “the” problems, but people do not clearly respond to such specific issues. This kind of rage mechanism in ordinary people is what I want to address in Seoul Station, and I want to deliver it in a firm, simple and powerful way. 
    - It sounds like it’s going to be quite different from your previous works.
    Yes, totally different. Of course the audience may say that it is as dark and heavy as before. Currently, it is in the middle of pre-production and the actual production will be done by the end of 2014, so it should be released in 2015.
    By LEE Ju-hyun
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