Hwang Byung-Guk Talks 나의 결혼원정기 (Wedding Campaign)
Which College did you attend? Was it overseas? Do you own your company? What car do you drive? Imported? How about your parents? Are they retired, what did they do before? Do you have brothers, anyone studying at a top University?
Questions... bachelors in Korea are often bombarded with questions. Sometimes it seems like trying to get married is like submitting a CV at a big company. They're going to scrutinize every single aspect of your personal life, until they're sure you'll fit all their criteria. But for Man-Taek and Hee-Cheol, life is a lot simpler, at least on the surface. Growing up in a rural village, they know everybody around them, they don't worry too much about what their neighbour drives, which school he graduated from, or if his job is at risk because of Free Trade Agreements. They just enjoy life to the fullest, until... well, until daddy starts complaining. You're over 30, and still aren't married? Are you going to ruin the family? But there's no bride to find where they live, and fancy, sophisticated women in the big city will certainly not even look at them. So what?
Uzbekistan! A nice little trip to the Central Asian country, host of several thousands Koreans for decades, after the big Diaspora of the 30s. They go there to find love, or at least a bride, to please their fathers. Hwang Byung-Guk's 나의 결혼원정기 (Wedding Campaign) takes a popular trend in Korean Cinema -- that of country bachelors going overseas to find their bride -- and turns it into a human dramedy about people away from home (psychologically and physically) finding an emotional milieu, with all the usual comic shenanigans you can expect from a commercial film produced in Chungmuro. Receiving almost unanimous praise, the film screened as the closing film at the recent PIFF, and had a good opening weekend. Director Hwang sat down for another one of Kim Young-Jin's great interviews. Here's some highlights:
How did you feel when 'Wedding Campaign' screened as the Closing Film at the recent PIFF (Pusan International Film Festival).
Director Hwang Byung-Guk: To be honest, at first I didn't even understand the meaning of using it as PIFF's closing film. I sort of sensed it when I was encouraged by the producers, but I didn't really get to grips with the whole thing. Anyhow, watching the film outdoors in Haeundae with many viewers was a really nice experience. I often asked myself If we were watching another film, since I never expected to get such a good reaction, with many people laughing and having fun. It felt really good.
Then again, making this film wasn't really fun, was it?
Hwang: It was a hard film to get funded, yes. Most people looked down on me, hinting there wasn't much appeal in seeing an old country bachelor going into a campaign to find a wife. I had enough confidence to make a fun story out of that outline anyway, but most people weren't interested. The reaction in Busan was the first gateway to get rid of all those preconceptions. It might have been because we got several thousand people together watching the film outdoors, but many people were crying, too.
I heard even your teachers from Film School were there.
Hwang: I went to school in Japan, the same Film School Imamura Shoei founded [Yokohama Vocational School of Broadcast and Film]. While it's not well known in Korea, it launched many talents in Japan's film industry [including Miike Takashi]. So, humble as I am, you could say I was one of them, even if I was on a scholarship there (laughs). Along with the school's director, Prof. Sato Tadao [one of the leading lights in Japanese film criticism], there were several teachers who came to Busan at their own expense to congratulate their student's debut. Even from the school's point of view, having one of their students debut with the closing film of the PIFF must have been something to feel good about.
But I'd also say you didn't describe the lives of people in Uzbekistan as deeply as you did for people living in Korean rural villages. It might be something you always have to deal with, when you're making a commercial film. But the film is not that much interested in delving deeply into what feelings those women experience, when Man-Taek and Hee-Cheol meet them in Uzbekistan.
Hwang: I had a lot of troubles, and many things were left unsolved. Some people pointed out I wasn't able to effectively portray the gradual change in Man-Taek and his translator and North Korean defector Lara's relationship, reading the script. But I was confident I could recreate those feelings while shooting. The problem, though, was both how to deal with Uzbekistan, and understanding what we had to give up to keep the film from dragging. In the final print we cut a lot of scenes involving the matchmaking dates in Uzbekistan, but if we focused a little deeper on that, the film would start to drag. But then if you cut too much, things become harder to understand, and you can't help but feel bad about that.
Casting Jung Jae-Young was really a blessing for this film. Because of 웰컴 투 동막골 (Welcome To Dongmakgol)'s success, he's now become famous.
Hwang: For starters, one can really be confident about Jung's skills as an actor. Before starting the shoot, I showed Jung a Japanese TV Drama -- 101回目のプロポーズ (The 101st Proposal) from 1991 -- and Fukasaku Kinji's 蒲田行進曲 (Fall Guy). He probably spent the whole day watching '101st Proposal' (laughs). The acting tone of the lead character in that Drama is exactly what I wanted from him. It might look a little exaggerated, but if you act systematically, you can evoke feelings even from that exaggerated and conventional situation. In my film, the characters don't drag laughter out of the viewer thanks to their skills, but it's the situation itself which has a certain comic element from its foundation. I think films like Zhang Yimou's 我的父親母親 (The Way Home) and 'Forrest Gump' with Tom Hanks helped suggest the kind of colour I wanted in Jung Jae-Young's character Man-Taek. Before going to Uzbekistan, there were a lot of people who said the scenes we shot in the countryside with Jung Jae-Young were a little exaggerated. Usually you ask some older directors' opinion, and many people reacted like that. But Jung and I didn't really worry too much. At first, Jung was doubtful too, but as the shoot continued he completely fell into it, sometimes even asking for more when I'd say it was OK...
I really liked the scenes in the rural village.
Hwang: I didn't only want to show the romance happening in Uzbekistan, but also the friendship between Man-Taek and Hee-Cheol, two 30 something men living in a rural village. So scenes like when Man-Taek and Hee-Cheol start singing together after getting drunk were really important to me. They both make people laugh, and at the same time highlight their friendship. When shooting those scenes, even the actors were really nervous, and rehearsed a lot. We also had a scene during the day, but we deleted that and focused on this one. Actually, the two were drinking for real, and thanks to that they did even better than expected. But then the problem was if I wanted to shoot again, they would be in no condition to do that... they were too drunk! (laughs)
나의 결혼원정기 (Wedding Campaign)
Director: 황병국 (Hwang Byung-Guk)
Cast: 정재영 (Jung Jae-Young), 유준상 (Yoo Joon-Sang), 수애 (Soo Ae), 김성겸 (Kim Sung-Gyum)
Theatrical Trailer (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Teaser Trailer (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Music Video - '미소' by 박혜경 (Park Hye-Kyung) (Streaming, 700k, Windows Media)
Produced By: 튜브픽처스 (Tube Pictures)
Distributed By:롯데엔터테인먼트 (Lotte Entertainment)
Rating: 12 and Over