Jun 2016 VOL.62


  • SET ME FREE Director KIM Tae-yong
  • by SONG Soon-jin / 10.17.2014
  •  “Youth Films Are Fantasies to Me”
    There are two directors with the name KIM Tae-yong in the Korean film industry. The interviewee in this story is not the KIM Tae-yong who directed Late Autumn (2010) and got married to actress TANG Wei. Th3 KIM Tae-yong we’re about to meet is someone who got into the film business before he turned 20 years old and is now in his tenth year in the field, and up to now his major filmography has consisted exclusively of shorts. KIM’s Frozen Land was invited to the Cannes International Film Festival, putting him in the spotlight. KIM’s films have premiered as part of omnibus films. This year, a retrospective of KIM’s short films was held at a Korean short film festival, exemplifying the fact that he is already an established director in the short film sector. Director KIM will take part in the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) with his first feature film Set Me Free. Busan is KIM’s hometown.
    You will participate in BIFF with your first feature. How do you feel?
    I feel great, especially as I was born and raised in Busan. I happened to watch The Son (2002) directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc DARDENNE there about ten years ago. The film inspired me to get into filmmaking.  Several years later, I will be visiting Busan with my film. I will also take part in four Q&As.
    You have a lot of experience participating in film festivals. Are you good at talking in Q&As?
    I can normally predict what questions I will get for my films, except for Set Me Free. As Set Me Free is not a short film, I feel a little worried. Furthermore, as the film is based on my experiences, audiences will identify me with the hero in the film. I am even more concerned about how audiences will respond. Set Me Free is about Yeong-jae who runs away from his parents and lives desperately in a group home.
    Did you have to search for materials for your film?
    I didn’t need to do that because it is my own story. Set Me Free  focuses not on Yeong-jae’s situations or the events involving him but rather his feelings. I did not depict the group home in detail since it was it was more important to see how Yeong-jae handles and overcomes his conflicts with other people. 
    Set Me Free features many similar elements to As Children (2005), your debut short, as well as Twenty's Wind (2005), You Can Count On Me (2006) and Night Bugs (2014), other recent works of yours.
    I consider myself lucky since I was able to base my debut feature on my own story. I would shay that my early films contain questions about my life and the world. Some time ago, a short film festival held a retrospective of my short films. So, I watched my films again and found one thing in common in them. All of the heroes are homeless and they just loaf around. (laughs) Actually, I did so as well and this was reflected in my characters. A home is not only a physical space but an emotional space to fall back on. In my case, that space was movies. In the case of Yeong-jae, the hero of Set Me Free, it is to enter a school of theology. Parts of the characters in this films are connected with Night Bugs. I have affection towards those who struggle to be loved. I am also very curious about what a human being dares to do in order to be loved. The heroine of my next project is a woman who wants to be loved by her young student. These days, I am writing a screenplay for this project. 
    Set Me Free deals with teenagers differently compared to other recent Korean films.
    This can be both positive and negative. I do not think that the lives of our teenagers are loaded only with violence, bullying and sexual abuse. They are living their lives through their own will and I think that’s what they should do. I didn’t want to make a film that says, “oh, I feel bad for you,” but that says, “let’s do something. Hang in there.” I tried to make the film solely from the hero’s viewpoint.
    It seems like you were very careful casting the actor for the hero.
    I have kept my eyes on CHOI Woo-shik, who plays Yeong-jae, since I watched him in a short film during at a festival. CHOI looks very meek but his eyes feel strong, as if he is  a totally different person. I wanted to know more about him. A little research told me that he grew up sheltered and has a good soul. To tell you the truth, I worried about whether or not CHOI would be able to understand the character. In addition, characters that CHOI had played were quite different from that of Yeong-jae. It was also a big burden for CHOI to take the lead in the film. Playing the character was a trying experience that even led to his begin hospitalized. But I saw him become excited about his acting over time, which moved me. CHOI feels that he is a stranger in Korea since he was born and raised in Canada. So I wanted to connect this feeling to Yeong-jae. As a result, Yeong-jae is half a brainchild of me and of CHOI’s. 
    What do youth films mean to you?   
    They are fantasies. Set Me Free is a kind of fantasy to me. It is my dream that has not come true. Yeong-jae is part of me but is more mature than how I was when I was a teenager. As a result, Yeong-jae experiences a happy ending that I could not achieve. Don’t you think? Yes, it really it a happy ending! (laughs)

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