The Korean film director Kim Bo-ra’s first full-length film, House of Hummingbird (2019), was officially released on August 29th in Korea. Her movie has been awarded over 25 prizes at the top international film festivals since its first release at the Busan Film Festival last year. It might not be easy for female directors to produce full-length independent films which are popular with the public. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) decided to meet director Kim Bo-a and listen to the stories about her filmmaking, her film, and her future as a filmmaker.
The Dream of Becoming a Movie Director
Q1 Please introduce yourself to the Kingos.
I am Kim Bo-ra who directed the movie House of Hummingbird.
Director Kim Bo-ra (ATNINE FILM CO., LTD.)
Q2 It seems that you have been interested in the film industry since you were young. What made you decide to be a film director?
I majored in film in an arts high school, but I began to study film seriously when I got to college. I became interested in the film industry because I loved watching movies. I think that everyone has a desire to build their own world and express it. People usually satisfy these desires by posting on social media or writing journals. For me, producing films was the most effective way to express my world. At first, however, I did not have any firm convictions about my career and even considered changing my major. Nevertheless, I loved making movies and could not give it up.
Q3 You directed The Recorder Exam (2011) for your graduation work at Columbia University, and the film received critical acclaim. I think there would be quite a difference between studying film in Korea and the United States (US). How did your experiences in the US affect you and your films?
I graduated from a college in Korea and went on to attend a graduate school in US. In Korea, many professors were not creators but rather, were theorists. On the contrary, in the US, most professors were creators who made their own movies. This does not mean that Korean professors are not good teachers, but American professors who went through many trials and errors themselves were completely different from those of the Korean professors. At Columbia University, I was satisfied with the school programs and the professors’ passion for teaching was impressive. For instance, a professor named Lewis Paul taught classes in a wheelchair with a caregiver by his side due to his illness. Additionally, when I expressed my sadness about his classes which showed only American and European movies, he immediately introduced the Korean movie The Host (2006) in his very next class. Thanks to the professors who taught with affection and trust, I learned a lot about making films.
Spreading Her Wings with House of Hummingbird
Q4 Please give us a brief summary of House of Hummingbird (2019). As the director, what kind of movie do you think it is?
It is a story about people who lived in 1994. People usually like to categorize movies as either independent or commercial. Since House of Hummingbird was not produced based on commercial capital, it is not a commercial film. Regardless, I do not want to place the movie into a such category. This is because there are a lot of movies that reflect directors’ intentions well with the name
House of Hummingbird’s Main Poster (naver.com)
of a commercial film and some independent movies do not express their intentions very well. Therefore, I just want to explain my movie as a story about people.
Q5 You got the inspiration for making House of Hummingbird from personal experience. What is the reason for this?
Creators usually do not decide the topic of writing in advance but begin writing naturally. Most of their stories begin from within themselves. I also completed the synopsis of House of Hummingbird effortlessly. In addition, the point that I want to emphasize is that the story is purely fictional with a significant amount of modification and dramatization.
Q6 In House of Hummingbird, you brought the same main character Eun-hee from your previous movie The Recorder Exam (2011). What was your reason for reintroducing the same character?
The Recorder Exam is a story about an elementary school student Eun-hee, and Eun-hee becomes a middle school student in House of Hummingbird. After watching The Recorder Exam, a lot of the audience wondered about who Eun- hee might have grown up to be. I found the audience’s curiosity interesting and decided to write a story about Eun-hee.
Main Character Eun-hee (newspoint.com)
Q7 You worked hard to recreate Korean society from 1994. Why did you make the setting of the movie to be in the year 1994?
1994 is the year in which the collapse of the Seongsudaegyo Bridge happened. When I was in middle school, I witnessed this tragedy and was very shocked. Also, it is the time just before the International Monetary Fund crisis hit Korea. Korea was at a turning point at that time. In addition, the collapse of the Seongsudaegyo Bridge reflects the collapse of Eun-hee’s relationship with her surroundings. Therefore, I thought that the year 1994 would be the perfect year to show the movie’s atmosphere and content.
Q8 As a female director, what have you learned while producing House of Hummingbird (2019) and after releasing it?
Depending on one’s sex, individuals experience and look at society differently. Since the main character Eun-hee is female and I am also female, I could accurately describe her feelings in detail. After the release of the movie, I attended many film festivals and learned a lot of things. Just five years ago, most of the works screened at the festivals were produced by male directors. Recently, however, the number of works directed by female directors has increased rapidly and the proportion of works produced by male and female directors have become similar. Last year, the staff of the Busan International Film Festival told me that the works by female directors accounted for over half of the total works for the first time. Also, female judges at film festivals are increasing in number. I think that this is a very positive change. There should be a variety of creators. These days, people are easily bored when watching commercial films with the same old plotlines. The reason why the films have the same stories is that the films were made by people with similar backgrounds and experiences. Therefore, film companies and distributors should be inclusive of people of various races, sexes, and sexual identities so that their voices can be heard. I hope that the movie world sets up a good environment for future female directors.
The Future of Kim Bo-ra and Her Films
Q9 What are your upcoming plans?
I am preparing for my next work. I want to create unique characters that have not been yet described in previous films. I hope I can see multiple sides of the characters. For example, people always describe capitalists as bad people and laborers as poor people. I want to break people’s stereotypes of society. I will cover a story that speaks for various people.
Q10 What is your ultimate goal in life?
I want to have good relationships with the people around me. If I did not bring peace to other people, it could hurt not only me but also other people. As I get older, I have realized that meeting good people is more important than money and personal honor. Of course, I was happy when I got many prizes and gave interviews to foreign newspapers after releasing House of Hummingbird. However, I was happier when I received letters from supporters who helped promote my movie. I wish I could live a life sharing beautiful things with the people around me.
Director Kim Bo-ra (ATNINE FILM CO., LTD)
Q11 Are there any final words for the Kingos?
I want to send a message which I wanted to hear when I was in college. At the time, I heard a lot of stories about successful people who decided upon their careers with absolute certainty. Whenever I heard these kinds of success stories, I was very nervous about my future that was seemingly uncertain. For me, when I graduated from college, I was in trouble over deciding my future career and even determined to give up filmmaking. I needed a person whom I could share my distress with and I headed for my meditation teacher. I expected her to advise me to change my major. But, on the contrary, she told me that it seemed like I sincerely loved filmmaking. Thanks to her, I realized loving something doesn’t always mean that it makes me happy. The more we love something, the more it bothers us and causes us great pain. I am sure there are Kingos who are worried about their future careers, and I just want to tell them to find something they like and not to blame themselves when they cannot find it. Challenge yourself and experience dumb things that you can only experience in college.
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