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May 20, 2007 12:49 PM
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CANNES '07 ATELIER INTERVIEW | So Yong Kim: "I wanted to focus on specific emotions I had... that I

Photo courtesy The Atelier de la Cinefondation.

Inspired by her childhood, So Yong Kim's Atelier entry, "Treeless Mountain", is the story of abandonment and family bonds. Set in Korea, a precocious six-year-old and her little sister move from the city to their grandparent's country house when their mother leaves to find her estranged husband. So Yong Kim's first film, "In Between Days," premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize for Independent Vision. "Treeless Mountain" went on to the Sundance Writers and Directors labs.

About the program: The Atelier de la Cinefondation was created by the Cannes Film Festival to nurture specific projects from emerging filmmakers. In its third year, the program has selected fifteen projects looking for development or completion funding. Meetings and events between filmmakers and film professionals will be arranged during the Festival, May 18-25. Click here for more information on the program and projects.


Talk about your background, including where you were born and how you became a filmmaker.

I was born in Pusan, Korea. My family immigrated to the States when I was 12 years old. I grew up in Los Angeles; first living in Koreatown then in one of those sprawling suburbs. I didn't really get in to the arts until I was in my mid-twenties. My mother told me to study business in college so I can learn how to support myself. Afterwards I was free to do whatever I wanted. I went back to school to learn painting then ended up getting my masters in performance art and mixed-media. I began making experimental films and videos. Filmmaking came very slowly and gradually for me.

Describe your previous films as well as your other creative projects.

My first feature, "In Between Days", was inspired by my experience of growing up in Los Angeles. When I made the film, I wanted to focus on specific emotions I had while I was growing up, that I could not articulate in words. I didn't think of reaching an audience or think about the end result. The final film is quite different from the script. Luckily the film was invited to screen at the Sundance Film Festival and then at Berlin Film Festival. I learned a lot from sharing that film with a wider audience.

Besides my next feature, "Treeless Mountain", I'm working on a collaborative film project with a NY based performance group called Radiohole. I'm also working on a new script based on a short story, and thinking of ideas for a short film about New York's Chinatown. Additionally, I'm helping my husband and partner produce his second feature film, "Jack & Diane".

"Treeless Mountain" filmmaker So Yong Kim.


What is "Treeless Mountain" about and what inspired you to pursue it?

"Treeless Mountain" is about a six-year-old girl who has to take care of her sister while her mother leaves to look for their missing father. It's a coming-of-age story. Similar to "In Between Days" it's inspired by personal experiences. I first started writing the story because of a re-occurring memory of my late grandmother. She used to scrub our backs really hard whenever we took a bath. When we complained, she'd scream "It's good for you!". She's always been a model for me as far as how I should live and behave. The film is dedicated to her.

What are your hopes for the project while you are in Cannes?

We are looking for additional financing from pre-sales or investments. We hope to meet some producers who can help us do a co-production. We are pushing really hard to shoot this coming fall and this might be the opportunity to put all the pieces together. Overall, it's a great honor to be invited and participate in the program. I've never been to Cannes so it's all very exciting.

What are some of your influences, including other films and filmmakers, as well as other creative influences?

Stylistically I'm greatly influenced by the Belgium filmmakers, the Dardenne brothers, and the Taiwanese directors, Hou Hsiou Hsein and Tsai Ming Liang. But for "Treeless Mountain", I'm referencing two films: "Nobody Knows" by Kore-eda Hirokazu and "Andrei Rublev" by Andrei Tarkovsky. Other artistic influences are Maya Deren, Pina Bausch, Agnes Martin and my husband Brad Gray, to name a few.

Which films are you most interested in seeing at this year's Festival?

There are so many great filmmakers at the festival. To start with I want to see Bela Tarr, Alexandre Sokourov, Emir Kusturica, Harmony Korine, and Lee Chang-dong's new films. It will be tough but I want to see as many films as I can.


The latest from the 2007 Festival de Cannes is available anytime in indieWIRE's special section.

TAGS: Interviews
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