Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shin Su-won: A Late Bloomer

A Seoul National University graduate Shin Su-won studied scriptwriting at the Korea National University of Arts while teaching at a middle school. At the age of 34, she told her husband and children that she needed a change of direction, quit her job and enrolled.

During her teaching career of 10 years she wrote and published two novels focused on teens’ lives. Shin, who studied German at Seoul National University, is an uncompromising film maker with a good eye for taking a beautiful shot, and has a confident control over tone.

Shin’s debut feature, Passerby No. 3, which won best Korean film at the Jeonju International Film Festival and best Asian-Middle Eastern film at the Tokyo International Film Festival (both in 2010), is at least partly autobiographical. Similarly to her film’s protagonist, Shin quit her teaching job in 2002 to enter film school and pursue filmmaking while raising two children. Also, like her main character, Shin had also been preparing a music-themed film before making this one, and indeed, many musical elements remain in her story. However, Shin insists that the events occurring in her film are heavily fictionalised.

She collected the Canal+ Prize for best short film for Circle Line, which tells the story of a middle-aged man killing time on a Seoul subway train as he tries to keep from his family the fact that he was made redundant. Circle Line was also noted in Cannes’ Critics Week.

In 2007, she used funds from her pension to make the autobiographical Passerby No. 3 which earned her awards at the Tokyo International Film Festival and Jeonju International Film Festival.

Her film, Pluto sets out to critically examine a highly competitive society by following a group of students at an elite high school. Drawn from her experiences as a former middle-school teacher, she draws on her own experiences in film as well to show students taking bullying to the extreme with murder and blackmail.

By Michael Collins

Shin Su-won is a special guest of the festival in Sydney, make sure to come along to her schedule of events and learn more about this creative Korean director!

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