Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • by JI Yong-jin  / 10.29.2012
  • Director PAK Ruslan
    - Why did you decide to make this film? How did you get started?
    When I first projected Hanaan in early 2009, it was a road movie about a deported Korean living in Uzbekistan and his great-grandson going to the Maritime Province in Russia. Having thought a lot about my identity when I was young, I wanted to make a story about the life of Korean immigrants who were unwillingly forced to move from the Maritime Province to another part of the Soviet Union, as well as their descendants, but I found it hard to attract investment for a big project dealing with a long journey from Uzbekistan to Korea through Kazakhstan and Russia. All the money I had was KRW 30 million (USD 27,000), which I received from Seoul city and the Seoul Film Commission (SFC).
    So I had to forget about the original plan and I decided to make another story about Stas, my friend who has inspired me the most, as I was very familiar with his story. He was a policeman in Uzbekistan, but somehow he fell to the bottom of the social ladder and went to Korea, where he did physical labor and attempted to make a comeback. I was deeply impressed with his life, so I reproduced it by developing a story about him and his friends. I wanted to express humanism and authenticity in my film by basing it on the real lives of people whom I knew very well. What I wanted to portray was humanity, not the identity of Koreans in Russia. I wanted to talk about humanity through one man’s will to live.
    - The film is based in reality. What can you tell us about this?
    Stanislav TYAN is a friend of mine who lived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. He is a 4th generation Korean immigrant like me. He quit his job as a policeman in Uzbekistan and tried to start a new life in Korea doing hard labor. The way he lived during this time impressed and inspired me. So I started writing a scenario about his and his friends’ experiences in real life. Viewers have said that the scenes involving drugs were very real and this is because of the details I accumulated through vast amounts of research and interviews with a number of experienced people. The robbery scene that appears early in the film was based on a real case that my friend actually experienced. I also knew someone through other people that died from drug use. Uzbekistan is a very colorful country where a lot of minor ethnic groups and diverse races live.
    - The story of the film is set in Uzbekistan, what’s your relationship with this country?

    The title ‘Hanaan’ is Russian (XAHAAH) for Canaan, the Land of Promise. In the beginning, a man tells his daughter the history of the deportation of Koreans in Russia. A lot of their descendents are living in Uzbekistan. I was born in Uzbekistan, but I think my ancestors must have missed the days they lived in the Maritime Province or their home country before their deportation. As a 4th generation Korean, I consider Korea as Hanaan, a land where I can realize my dreams, rather than my homeland. Hence, also for Stas, Uzbekistan was a space to escape from. Although the way we see the country is different from that of our ancestors, the idea that it is the Land of Promise is the same. Moreover, as it is a film about my friends and I who grew up there, it was an inevitable choice.
    - The film is shot on real locations, how was the shooting of the film?

    The schedule and the budget were both very tight and we had very few staff members. Technically, we had to get permission from the government for every instance of filming in Uzbekistan, but we didn’t do this for Hanaan. They would never have allowed us to shoot a film with drug-taking scenes. We constantly backed up our original data on different hard disks. One day the police took our equipment and warned that they would kick us off the location. I was not very confident that I could really make the film, but I think the poor conditions, our determination to make it happen and the passion of the staff helped us through it.
    - You cast a non-professional actor. Why did you choose to do so? What was most important when directing his performance?
    Just as women have a 6th sense, I felt some sort of impression from Stanislav TYAN (as Stas). I was very worried as I didn’t know how he would act before a camera, but I was stubborn and wanted to cast him. I thought it would be the best choice as long as I could draw out his full potential as the film was about real life. There was nothing to be afraid of. Just as I thought, he had the potential I was looking for. I think his acting was miraculous. The authenticity of the film wouldn’t have been possible without him.
    As for direction, I never showed the scenario to the actors before shooting started. Stanislav TYAN had no idea at first how Hanaan would end. I didn’t explain situations or give directions in advance because I didn’t want to make them think too much, which I felt would ruin their acting. Happily it worked out. Instead of making something out of nothing, I focused on pulling out something that was hidden. It was also very helpful that I knew him well as an old friend. Since he was a non-professional actor and didn’t know about the traffic line, I had a camera follow him. Later, it became the unique shooting style of Hanaan.
    Stanislav TYAN actually met a lot of drug addicts when he was a policeman. By virtue of this second-hand experience from his past, it looked very real when he was acting as an ex-policeman addict struggling to quit drugs.

    - There is a documentary feeling to the film, but also some elements reminiscent of North American films from the seventies. Can you tell us about your influences?
    I like genre films with strong drama like action films. I want to keep on making films like this. I cannot think of any film director that had a particular influence on Hanaan. I don’t watch many films and I don’t remember referring to any while I was shooting mine.  
    - What’s your next project? If you have any, can you tell us about it?
    I’m currently working on a documentary about Stanislav TYAN’s life in Korea, Hanaan PS. After finishing it, I want to make an action film with a Korean leading character in Moscow. Another film in mind is a melodrama set in Inkar in Kazakhstan. I’m planning to make both of those outside of Korea. As a 4th generation Korean in Russia who spent his childhood in the Soviet Union, studied the Korean language during my youth and finally learned filmmaking in Korea, I want to make use the uniqueness of my identity when making films.
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