BONG BOUNCES BACK AT CANNES
SEOUL: Only a few months ago South Korean director Bong Joon-ho was on a government blacklist. Now, his big-budget movie Okja is being talked up as a contender for the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
The mild-mannered filmmaker, who has been compared to “Steven Spielberg in his prime” by no less than Quentin Tarantino, was secretly targeted by the former president Park Geun-hye.
Under her, the authorities blacklisted nearly 10,000 artists and writers who expressed “left-wing thoughts” — criticising her or her policies.
“It was a such a nightmarish few years that left many South Korean artistes deeply traumatised,” said Bong.
“Many are reeling from the trauma,” said the director, whose US$50 million (RM220 million) Netflix feature, which premieres tomorrow, is about a country girl who tries to save a genetically-engineered beast from a greedy multinational company.
The blacklist, aimed at starving the artistes of state subsidies, read like a Who’s Who of Seoul’s art scene, including Bong and Park Chan-wook, whose erotic thriller The Handmaiden became an international hit after it premiered at Cannes last year.
Bong, 47, made his name with a series of films seen as satires of South Korean society, including crime thriller Memories of Murder, which portrays the repressive social atmosphere under army rule in the 1980s.
His 2006 monster blockbuster The Host describes an incompetent government left helpless in the wake of a disaster. Eight years later, parallels were drawn between the film and the Sewol ferry sinking that killed 300 people, mostly schoolchildren.
After the nation watched the ship slowly sink on live television, Park’s government came under fire for its botched rescue efforts, and Bong was among those who backed an inquiry.
Many artistes who joined the call for an inquiry were included in the blacklist, with some placed under secret state surveillance. AFP
Bong Joon-ho French policemen walking past the Palace of Festivals and Conferences, where the 70th Cannes Film Festival is held, on the French Riviera yesterday.