“Jiseul,” a film based on the Jeju Massacre, has been selected for the final of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Written and directed by O Muel, the film centers around the inhabitants of a village who, when their village is labeled as communist by the government, try to hide in one of Jeju’s many caves.
Out of the 12,146 films that were submitted for consideration in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, 4,044 were feature length. Of these, only 113 were selected to participate in the festival, a number which was winnowed to 12 in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. The 2013 Sundance Film Festival will be held in the Utah cities of Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, from January 17 - 27, 2013.
▲ Stills from O Muel’s latest film “Jiseul,” shortlisted at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo courtesy Japari Film
“Jiseul,” which means potato in the Jeju dialect, is set during the Jeju Massacre, also known as the 4.3 Massacre after events occurring on April 3rd 1948. President Syngman Rhee declared Jeju a “red island” and accused islanders of being communist. The military was sent to rid the island of alleged communist elements, forcing many frightened locals to hide on mountainsides and in caves.
O Muel’s “Jiseul” has received the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award, the Citizen Critic Award, the Director Prize from the Director’s Guild of Korea (DGK) and the CGV Movie Collage Award at the festival, as well as receiving positive reviews from the Busan International Film Festival in Oct. 2012. It is slated to premiere in South Korea in March 2013.
Born in 1971 on Jeju, O majored in Korean painting. In 2002 he organized “Flower for a Jeju Head,” a Jeju street-art festival, and in 2004 he formed Japari Theater, a cultural art group based on the island. Its original Jeju-inspired plays, such as “Island Story” and “Odolttogi” drew international attention at the Haki International Children’s Art Festival in Japan. This success led to the opening of Japari Theater’s regional office in Fukuoka, where regular plays were held. Recently, “Odolttogi” received four awards, including Best Drama in the 19th ASSITEJ Korea International Summer Festival (2011).
O then moved into film with short productions “Flower for a Head” (2003) and “Putting on Lipstick Thickly” (2004). His first movie “Flower for a Head” was screened at several film festivals, receiving a Korean Ministry of Culture Award, and his first full-length debut film “Nostalgia” (2009) won the Judges’ Special Choice Award at the 2010 Jecheon International Music & Film Festival.
Many actors and staff were carried over from Japari Theater to work on his full-length productions, such as “Ppongttol” and “Nostalgia.” “Japari” is a Jeju word used to describe slothfulness, and is frequently used by Jeju mothers to nag children. In O’s movie “Ppongttol,” the main character Ppongttol (a movie director himself) even refers to movies as, “japari.”
“Ppongttol” was made on a shoe-string budget of only 5 million won (US$5,000). The actors and crew were not paid and instead worked for the valuable experience. His movies have spawned their own unique genre, known as Tamna Odyssey Comedy (Tamna is an ancient name Jeju). This is because the films are shot entirely on location on Jeju, using local actors speaking the regional dialect.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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