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Tribeca ’10 | Haunting Love on the Lam: Park Chan-ok’s “Paju” (World Narrative Competition)

Tribeca '10 | Haunting Love on the Lam: Park Chan-ok's "Paju" (World Narrative Competition)

In Korean director Park Chan-ok’s Tribeca Narrative Competition feature, “Paju,” conflict and love are confronted in an urban exile.

After a haunting accident while on the lam, Joongshik migrates to Paju, a gray town where the urban landscape is as bleak as the fate of its residents. Attempting to remain in hiding and sublimate the tragedies of his past, he finds a kindred spirit with secrets of her own. Her younger sister, Eunmo, disapproving of the romantic arrangement, quickly drives a wedge into the already aloof relationship. Delicately unveiled through an anachronistic period of eight years, Paju tells the story of a man and his transgressions, a girl in conflict with herself, and the alienation that we often face — even in the presence of those we love.

From religion to social reinvention, writer/director Park Chan-Ok (“Jealousy is My Middle Name,” TFF ’03) leaves no controversial stone unturned by exploring the dialectical forces at work within of a community that simultaneously resists and accepts change. [Synopsis provided by the Tribeca Film Festival]

World Narrative Feature Competition
North American Premiere
Director: Park Chan-ok
Primary Cast: Lee Sun-kyun, Seo Woo
Screenwriter: Park Chan-ok
Producer: TPS Company
Director of Photography: Kim Woo-hyung
Presented By: Myung Films
Lighting: Kim Seung-kyu
Interests: Asian, Drama, Returning Filmmaker
110 min., South Korea

[Editor’s Note: This is one interview in a series profiling directors whose films are screening at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.]

Director Park on her direct path to filmmaking, the Biblical roots of “Paju” and going about making the film…

In 2003, I made my first film, “Jealousy Is My Middle Name” and came to Tribeca with that film. I remember going to the closing ceremony party with a friend and sitting on the second floor stairs and watching people. I waited to see if director Martin Scorsese would walk passed on the red carpet, but he didn’t come, so I just went back to my hotel room and went to bed.

There is no special reason why I became a director. I majored in film directing in college and for me to go on to make films is just doing what I learned. But how I came to major in film directing at college is a little more than just coincidence. I applied for a few departments that I thought were interesting, but ended up getting admitted into film directing and started majoring in that. I probably thought majoring in film would be interesting because of the ‘dreamer’ in me.

The story of the ‘Prodigal Son’ in the Bible caught my interest. I thought there was a little bit of the ‘Prodigal Son’ in me – always wanting to escape. In “The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge” it says that the prodigal son is someone who denounced love and will leave his father again. Some people end up betraying the ones who love them for no malicious reasons, and Judas is someone like that. I am drawn to the suffering and anguish of people like that, andI think developing that idea was quite commercial. But I don’t think many people see it that way. I want to be a filmmaker who skillfully hides my private interests in the film, but it’s quite difficult.

I’m interested in the tendencies of people who are hard to understand. That thought has remained a latent one in me for a long time and when reality hits, like when I am all out of money, I start writing again – and I meet people. Production companies, actors, staff… That’s how I’ve been approaching things, but I want to do it differently next time. I have only made two films thus far, and it’s been so long since I made my first film, that it felt like making a film for the first time. I don’t think I have a set approach to making films yet.

Going in the opposite direction of his first film and how Tribeca audiences may see it…

I was curious to see if I can make a film with great drama and strong narration. People said that “Jealousy Is My Middle Name” is a realistic film that examines everyday life in great detail. But I think a movie is a movie. So I wanted to make a film that is the complete opposite from my first. Again, I didn’t achieve the greatest of results, but I feel like my prospects are somewhat wider now. Or it could be just a thought…

I once asked an American what people do in a fight against tearing down something like in the film “PAJU.” He said it would be dealt with legally through a lawyer in America. It was quite interesting because it is completely the opposite from what the characters in “PAJU” would do. I’m very curious myself, how the people of Tribeca will see the film.

Considering influences and what’s next…

I wanted to make a film where the main characters leave at the end like in “Pelle the Conqueror” and “Naked.” Pelle is a beloved character who courageously leaves the spotlight. But in “Naked,” Johnny breaks a promise with his girlfriend, steals the money, and leaves. The main character in “PAJU” is more like Johnny than Pelle [in that sense]. But I wanted to make the overall tone of the film more [high-end] like “Pelle the Conqueror.”

[Going forward], I’m thinking of a screenplay set in modern Korea, centered on a character that’s based on an actual person. I’m drawing on my own, so I can’t really say it’s a future project in the works.

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