Directed by LEE Dae-hee
Starring the voices of KIM Hyun-ji, SI Young-jun, AN Young-mi, HYUN Gyeong-su, LEE Ho-san
Release Date: July 25, 2012
At long last, Korean animation seems to be enjoying some time in the spotlight. In 2011, the
commercial success of children's book adaptation Leafie
and the critical praise heaped on
independent feature The King of Pigs
marked a big step forward for Korea's animation sector.
Now, the new film Padak
is earning positive reviews and starting to pick up festival awards,
suggesting the emergence of another talented new director.
Padak may at first glance look like a more realistically-presented Finding Nemo, but it
turns out to be a much darker kind of film. A mackerel is captured in the ocean, and ends up
being deposited in a tank at a raw fish restaurant next to the sea. Desperate to escape her
captivity, the mackerel can see the ocean just across the street, but traversing even this short
distance is dangerous and difficult. Meanwhile, together with the other species of fish in the tank
(including a cynical old flatfish), she tries to deal with the knowledge that she might be taken
inside and carved up at any moment.
Debut director LEE Dae-hee spent five years in total preparing this film, which he calls "a fable
for adults." To get a better feel for the setting, he spent several months working in a raw fish
restaurant similar to the one in the film. The restaurant's exterior is also based on a real-life
restaurant in a seaside village in Gangwon Province. Premiering in competition at the Jeonju
International Film Festival in May, Padak picked up the Movie Collage award from multiplex
chain CGV, resulting in a commercial release in CGV theaters on July 25. It also won the Jury
Special Prize at the 16th Seoul International Cartoon & Animation Festival, held in July.
Padak, which creates a highly memorable look out of its everyday setting, takes some
surprisingly dark turns in its narrative. Definitely not for children, the work operates in some
ways as an allegory of contemporary society, but even on its most literal level it is a tense and
involving film. The director also inserts sporadic musical sequences into the story, which depict
in abstract visuals the yearning for freedom felt by the caged mackerel. The striking contrast
between the dreamlike interludes and the frightening realism of the main story gives an
altogether new kind of aesthetic to this intriguing debut work.