From sleeper hits to leading directors shooting abroad, society-changing films and game-changing moves, 2011 has been a surprising year for the Korean film industry. KANG Byeong-jin profiles the issues.
Unexpected smash hits from <Sunny> and <War of the Arrows> - a year when dark horses rather than anticipated large-scale films led the race at the box office.
South Korea’s box office in 2011 had integrity. Films emerged that were more ambitious than ever with large-scale budgets and marketing campaigns to fit, but cinema-goers were not taken in by it all. This trend started last February during the Lunar New Year holiday season. New titles from hit directors such as KANG Woo-seok’s <Glove (a.k.a. G-Love)> and LEE Jun-ik’s <Battlefield Heroes> were released, but the winner in the end was director KIM Seok-yoon’s <Detective K: Secret of Virtuous Widow>. Released in May, <Sunny> also far exceeded expectations. Although the film’s director KANG Hyoung-chul had made an impressive debut with <Scandal Makers> which clocked up 8 million admissions, <Sunny> featured actors with weaker ticket-selling power and had a story that centered on women - something that had never really been popular at the box office. But ultimately, <Sunny> took in more than 7 million admissions.
Of course, summer proved to be the most dramatic season at the 2011 box office. Big-budget films <Quick>, <Sector 7>, <The Front Line>, and <War of the Arrows (a.k.a. Arrow – the Ultimate Weapon)> duked it out at the cinemas and in the end, the least anticipated of them all, <War of the Arrows> was the winner. Unlike its competitors who boasted 3D technology, war scenes and speed, <War of the Arrows> had the humble ambition of showing audiences some arrow action and the simple story of a man who throws himself into battle with nothing but a bag of arrows and his wits to rescue his sister. But the excitement and pleasure of the arrows he shot hit the mark. <War of the Arrows> beat the record set by <Sunny> earlier in the year to become the biggest box office success of the year. The hit films of 2011 tell nothing but the truth of success: it doesn’t matter how big your ambitions are; it matters what audiences want to see.