Park Jungbum’s stunning and much-lauded debut is the story of Jeon Seung-chul, a North Korean defector forging a life in capitalist South Korea. Emerging from eight months in a resettlement camp, the unassuming Seung-chul is placed in a home on the rundown outskirts of Seoul, and finds a modest job papering the city with advertisement posters. Yearning for a human bond, he joins a church and meets Sook-young, a choir singer who works nights at a seedy karaoke bar. As he attempts to forge some kind of relationship with Sook-young and some kind of life in Seoul, Seung-chul finds his deepest kinship and comfort in a fellow outcast—a stray dog he adopts in the street.
Marginalized in every way, from his liminal home on the city’s fringes to his frustrated attempts to integrate in either church or work, Seung-chul’s unwavering moral compass is testament to his integrity in the face of baseless prejudice. As both director and actor, Park (assistant director of Lee Chang-dong’s stirring Poetry) fully realizes a disarmingly beautiful vision of loneliness, disconnect, and ethical ambiguity in this story of a lost soul’s struggle to connect. [Synopses courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]
“The Journals of Musan”
Primary Cast: Park Jungbum,Jin Yonguk,Kang Eunjin
Director(s): Park Jungbum
Screenwriter: Park Jungbum
Producer(s): Lee Jinuk
Cinematography: Kim Jongsun
Lighting: Lee Jongseok
Production Designer: Eun Heesang
Editor: Jo Hyunjoo
Responses courtesy of “The Journals of Musan” director Park Jungburn.
After seeing “Fireworks” by Kitano Takeshi, I remember being shocked. From then on I knew I wanted to study the film. “Peppermint Candy,” directed by Lee Chang-dong, later became the most decisive motivation to become a filmmaker for a living. After that, I attended a filmmaking lecture at University I was attending and it brought about an opportunity to make a film.
From short to feature…
“The Journals of Musan” is the story about the reality of North Korean defectors, which I learned of through my friend Jeon Seung-chul who escaped from North Korea in 2002. In 2008, I made a short film called “125 Jeon Seung-Chul,” to recount the North Korean defectors’ employment problem. I expanded it to this feature.
Keeping it real…
I wanted to reveal the desperate situations the North Korean defectors are experiencing in a very realistic way. I tried to avoid dramatic camera movements and made sure to act as an observer, keeping my distance from the performers. And in directing the acting, I chose not to expose their lives too directly so that the audiences can find something hidden behind the scenes and the characters on their own.
Financial woes and one tough schedule…
The biggest challenge was money. As I had a very limited budget, I had to make calls constantly to borrow more money during the shoot. Not to mention that I could hardly pay wages to my crews. It remains the most apologetic point and I know I should pay them back someday in the future. The second challenge was the murderous production schedule. Shooting started in February, which is almost the end of winter. But this film was supposed to be shot during the winter. Once we had to keep shooting without sleeping at all for three days. I really owe it all to my crew who completely devoted themselves to the project.
Not faking it…
Every ‘action’ scene in the film was real. It all actually ‘happened.’ None of the violence was faked. While I was taking part in these violent scenes, I injured my ribs accidently, so I had to go on filming with tremendous pain for a while. Something else funny also happened on set, regarding a dog. I couldn’t shoot the scenes involving the dog in chronological order, because it kept growing up. As time went by, the clothes of the dog were getting tighter and tighter, so we had to find the same clothes but only a bigger size. But after all, even the bigger clothes got too small for the dog. It looks a bit funny in the film.
In the works…
My next project “Alive” is a drama about social problems. I’m planning to shoot this winter and currently I’m amending the screenplay.