Lee Chang-dong

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Lee Chang-dong
Lee Chang-dong 2010.jpg
Born (1954-04-01) April 1, 1954 (age 65)
Alma materKyungpook National University (1981)
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter
Years active1997–present
Children1
Korean name
Hangul
Hanja
Revised RomanizationI Chang-dong
McCune–ReischauerI Ch'angdong

Lee Chang-dong (Korean이창동; Hanja: 李滄東; born April 1, 1954) is a South Korean film director, screenwriter, and novelist.[1] He has directed six feature films: Green Fish (1997), Peppermint Candy (2000), Oasis (2002), Secret Sunshine (2007), Poetry (2010), and Burning (2018). Burning became the first Korean film to make it to the 91st Academy Awards' final nine-film shortlist for Best Foreign Language Film. Burning also won the Fipresci International Critics' Prize at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, Best Foreign Language Film in Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and Best Foreign Language Film in Toronto Film Critics Association.

Lee has won Silver Lion for Best Director and Fipresci International Critics' Prize at the 2002 Venice Film Festival and the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. He also won the award for Achievement in Directing at the 4th Asia Pacific Screen Awards in 2017,[2] Jury Grand Prize at the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Best Director and Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Asian Film Awards in 2019,[3] and he has been nominated for the Golden Lion and the Palme d'Or. Lee served as South Korea's Minister of Culture and Tourism from 2003 to 2004.

Life and career[edit]

Lee Chang-dong was born in Daegu, the hub of Korea's main conservative party.[4] He graduated in 1981 with a degree in Korean Literature from Kyungpook National University in Daegu, where he spent much of his time in the theater, writing and directing plays. After a spell teaching Korean Language in high school, he established himself as a renowned novelist with his first novel Chonri in 1983. Later in his career, to the surprise of many, he turned to movie making. All of his films have received critical acclaim and awards.[5]

Lee did not study filmmaking before starting out. He penned two screenplays, Park Kwang-su's To the Starry Island in 1993 and A Single Spark in 1995. The film won Best Film at the Blue Dragon Film Awards in 1995.[6][7]

After being encouraged by his contemporaries to finally step behind the directors chair, Lee made Green Fish, a "critique of Korean society told through the eyes of a young man who becomes enmeshed in the criminal underworld",[8] in 1997. Green Fish won Best Film at Blue Dragon Film Awards, Dragons and Tigers Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, and had NETPAC Award's Special Mention at Rotterdam International Film Festival.

In 2000, Lee made Peppermint Candy, a story following a single man in reverse chronology through 20 years of South Korean history—from 1980's student uprising, to the film's 2000 release. Peppermint Candy won Special Jury Prize at Bratislava International Film Festival, and got three awards at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival including Don Quijote Award, Special Jury Prize and NETPAC Award. The film also won Best Film at Grand Bell Awards.

Lee released Oasis in 2002, a story involving a mentally ill man and a woman with cerebral palsy, winning the Silver Lion for Best Director at the 2003 Venice Film Festival. Oasis was selected as Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 75th Academy Awards. The film was awarded Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award at 2003 Vancouver International Film Festival. It also won 2003 Venice International Film Festival's Special Director's Award, FIPRESCI Prize, and SIGNIS Award. Lee won Baeksang Arts Awards for Best Director. Oasis was nominated at the 2005 Independent Spirit Awards for Best Foreign Film.

From 2003 to 2004, Lee served as the minister of Culture and Tourism in the South Korean Government. On the political appointment, Lee said:

At the time of President Roh Moo-hyun’s election campaign, one of the things he promised was that his Minister of Culture would be selected from the field of culture and art rather than a professional politician. Well, he got elected, and a lot of people recommended me as this new Minister of Culture. I never thought that this was an outfit that suited me particularly well, but had to accept it as one of those bitter cups one has to accept in the course of life.[9]

In October 2006, Lee was awarded with the Chevalier (Knight) order of the Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honor) by the French government for "his contribution to maintaining the screen quota to promote cultural diversity as a cultural minister." It was delivered to the French embassy in South Korea by the French Minister of Culture, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres during an official visit.[10]

Lee's fourth film, Secret Sunshine about a grieving mother who loses her son, was completed in 2007. At the 60th Cannes Film Festival, the film was entered in the competition category with lead actress Jeon Do-yeon, winning the Prix d'interprétation féminine.[11] It was released to theaters in South Korea in 2007, and was South Korea's submission for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 2008. Secret Sunshine won Best Feature Film at Asia Pacific Screen Awards. It won Best Film and Best Director at 2008 Asian Film Awards. It won Best Picture and Best Director at Korean Film Awards, Best Director at Director's Cut Awards, and Special Award at Grand Bell Awards.

In 2009, Lee was appointed as a jury member of the international competition in 61st Cannes Film Festival along with Isabelle Huppert, Shu Qi and Robin Wright Penn.

The following year, Lee's film Poetry was released. The film tells a story of a suburban woman in her 60s who begins to develop an interest in poetry while struggling with Alzheimer's disease and her irresponsible grandson. It garnered positive critical reviews, and won the Best Screenplay Award at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Notably, the film's starring role was played by Yoon Jeong-hee, who was returning to the screen after an absence of 16 years. For this film, Lee won Achievement in Directing in Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Poetry also won Best Film and Best Screenplay at 2010 Grand Bell Awards, and Lee won Best Director at 2011 Baeksang Arts Awards.

Lee returned after eight years of hiatus with a 2018 psychological drama mystery film Burning, based on one of Haruki Murakami's seventeen short stories in The Elephant Vanishes, "Barn Burning".[12][13][14] The film premiered at the 71st Cannes Film Festival, winning the Fipresci International Critics' Prize.[15] It became the highest-rated film in the history of Screen International’s Cannes jury grid.[16] Burning was selected as the South Korean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards,[17] and became the first Korean film to make it to the final nine-film shortlist of the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.[18]

Burning also won Best Foreign Language Film in Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Best Foreign Language Film in Toronto Film Critics Association, and the runner-up of National Board of Review's Top Five Foreign Language Film. It was included on Roger Ebert's Great Movies.[19] For this film, Lee won Best Director at 2018 Buil Film Awards and 2019 KOFRA Film Awards. In addition to international acclaims, the film also won 2018 Grand Bell Awards for Best Film and FIPRESCI Award at Korean Association of Film Critics Awards.

In March 2019, Lee won Best Director for Burning and was honored Lifetime Achievement Award at the 13th Asian Film Awards.[20][21]

Political Beliefs[edit]

Lee Chang-dong was born in Daegu, the most conservative and rightist city in Korea, to lower middle class parents, who were leaning to the left, particularly his father. His family came from noble class of the old Korea. This contradiction of growing up in an ex-noble family with socialist ties shaped his character, and subsequently his film style.[22]

Lee supported Roh Moo-hyun's candidacy since 2002, and after he won the elections, Lee served in the office as Minister of Culture from 2003 to 2004. During his term, Lee proposed a screen quota for independent film but his proposal met with fierce opposition by the Korean movie industry. However, in October 2006, he was rewarded for his efforts with the Chevalier (Knight) order of the Legion d'Honneur (Legion of Honor) by the French government for "his contribution to maintaining the screen quota to promote cultural diversity as a cultural minister".[23]

Lee has been boycotting and refused attending the Blue Dragon Film Awards ceremony since 2002 due to political conflicts with Chosun Ilbo, a conservative South Korean newspaper which hosts the awards. Consequently, since 2002 his films have never been submitted to the competition and were excluded from the nomination for the award’s best picture and best director. However, Lee respects the efforts and rights of the actors and film crews to get nominated in Blue Dragon Film Awards.[24] For ten years until 2017, Lee was blacklisted by previous government.[25] Lee recalls of his eight-year-hiatus:

During these eight years, I questioned myself a lot: what kind of films I want to make and what kind of films am I going to make for my audience? Actually, it wasn’t necessary to catch up for such a long time: I just could’ve easily made films that people wanted to see, with a touch of my personal style so they could be critically acclaimed, but I was looking for my own films, that’s all I can speak and talk about. At the time I was thinking about people’s anger: everybody I knew back then was angry, no matter their religion or nationality or differences. (Burning) original story put me in connection with my own questions and story.[26]

Film and directing style[edit]

Lee Chang-dong describes his creative process as one of utter despair.[27] Almost all Lee's films have that of melodramatic element, except for Burning that bends the contours of the thriller with a tense, haunting multiple-character study.[28] All his films are dark stories of innocence lost, suffering and alienation. His key themes have been consistently about psychological trauma. Rather than allowing his characters simply to wallow in their misery, Lee draws them into situations that make them search, often futilely, for the meaning of life. Memory has often been an important theme for Lee.[29]

His films are the reflection of the repressive social and political climate of the South Korea, and depictions of marginalized blue-collar Koreans. His characters are characteristically anti-heroic, but he seems to justify them due to their background.[30] Through realistic portraits of troubled characters, Lee asks the audience to examine themselves and to look at what society pushes under the rug. However, he shys away from masking his themes with bold surrealism. Instead, he's more driven by naturalism.[31]

Lee doesn't give too specific direction when he works with actors. He believes that an actor’s reaction is more important than the action.[32] He doesn't have a particular method of directing. He doesn't tell the actors to act or be in a certain way. Instead, he tells them to become the persona, the character in the film. He said, "What I try to have them do is become the character, to feel like the character. I do not try to be very specific in how I direct my actors, for instance I will not say things like 'Use this expression' or 'Speak this way', or 'Can you please raise the pitch of your voice a bit higher' or anything like that." And, "Sometimes, actors expect from me a bit more detail, to give them specific advise but I don't do that. But what I DO sometimes is to tell them different stories, or speak about other things that do not seem to have anything in common with what the actors should be playing, but indirectly might help them feel the same way as the character feels so that they become the character."[33]

In respond to the pressures felt by Moon So-ri and Sol Kyung-gu on his film set, Lee said, "[...] I've never raised my voice, and I'm never really about giving any sort of strict direction, especially when it comes to working with the actors. When it comes to acting, I really prefer the actors to find themselves in the character, and find themselves living in the situations, themselves. I'm not someone to tell them, or to instruct them how to express whatever in a certain sort of situation." And, "[...] One of the things that I say a lot to my actors is, 'Don't act'. That be a bit flabbergasting to actors, because, 'Wait, I'm an actor, I'm supposed to act. What do you mean? What does that mean?' That can come as a confusing statement."[34]

Lee said, "[t]he pressure came from their own inhibitions, and their own self-imposed sort of will to do a good job on set. It was so much so that when Sol Kyung-gu would come to me, [...] even if I just gave him a really innocent gaze, and just look at him, Sol Kyung-gu would immediately think, 'Oh, my God, what did I do wrong?' (laughs). So, in my effort to sort of lighten up the mood, later on in the shoot, I would just like sit more comfortably around the monitor [...] and I would just joke around with a water bottle with him, but I don't think that ultimately really helped (laughs)."[35]

Literature[edit]

In 1987, Lee Chang-dong published his first short story, Possession, followed by There's a Lot of Shit in 1992 which won him The Korea Times Literary Prize, and then Tenaciousness in 1996.[36][37][38]

In 2007, Lee's short story, The Dreaming Beast (translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl), was published in the journal Azalea.[39][40] In 2018, his short story, On Destiny (translated by Soyoung Kim), was published in the journal Asymptote.[41]

Lee said about his writing style, "I always wrote for one person, for this person who thought and felt the same way as I do. It almost felt like I was writing a love letter to this very specific person who would understand what I'm writing and share the same feelings and thoughts."[42]

Personal life[edit]

Lee Chang-dong is the third son out of four brothers. He said that they were very close, and called themselves fraternity brothers. His youngest brother, Lee Jun-dong, is a film producer for Lee's films. Lee hoped to become a painter growing up, but he could not afford art supplies.[43] Lee and the president of MBC television and radio network company, Choi Seung-ho [ko],[44] are old friends and Kyungpook National University alumni. He personally asked Choi to appear in Burning playing as Jong-su's father. He is also a close friend of his frequent collaborator, actor Moon Sung-keun.[45]

Filmography[edit]

Lee Chang-dong at the French Cinematheque, August 2018
Year Film Director Producer Screenwriter Notes
1993 To the Starry Island Yes Also Assistant Director
1995 A Single Spark Yes
1997 Green Fish Yes Yes
1999 Peppermint Candy Yes Yes
2002 Oasis Yes Yes 75th Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Language Film
2007 Secret Sunshine Yes Yes Yes 80th Academy Awards submission for Best Foreign Language Film
Never Forever Yes
2009 A Brand New Life Yes
2010 Poetry Yes Yes
2013 Hwayi: A Monster Boy Yes
2014 A Girl at My Door Yes
2015 Collective Invention Yes
2016 The World of Us Yes
2018 Burning Yes Yes Yes 91st Academy Awards shortlisted for Best Foreign Language Film
2019 Birthday Yes

Frequent Collaborators[edit]

Actor To the Starry Island (1993) *screenplay A Single Spark (1995) *screenplay Green Fish (1997) Peppermint Candy (1999) Oasis (2002) Secret Sunshine (2007) Poetry (2010) Burning (2018)
Ahn So-young
Moon Sung-keun
Shim Hye-jin
Song Kang-ho
Sol Kyung-gu
Moon So-ri
Ahn Nae-sang

Honors[edit]

International awards[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1997 Vancouver International Film Festival Dragons and Tigers Award Green Fish Won
1998 Rotterdam International Film Festival NETPAC Award Special Mention
2000 Bratislava International Film Festival Special Jury Prize Peppermint Candy Won
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Don Quijote Award Won
NETPAC Award Special Mention
Special Jury Prize Won
2003 Castellinaria International Festival of Young Cinema Three Castles Award Oasis Won
Gardanne Film Festival Audience Award Won
Vancouver International Film Festival Chief Dan George Humanitarian Award Won
Venice International Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize Won
Silver Lion for Best Direction Won
Special Director's Award Won
2005 Independent Spirit Awards Best Foreign Film Nominated
2007 Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Feature Film Secret Sunshine Won
2008 2nd Asian Film Awards Best Director Won
Best Film Won
2010 Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay Poetry Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Achievement in Directing Won
2018 Cannes Film Festival FIPRESCI Prize Burning Won
International Cinephile Society Cannes Awards Palme d'Or Won
International Adana Film Festival Golden Boll International Best Feature Won
National Board of Review Top Five Foreign Language Film Runner-up
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
Toronto Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
Tour du Cinéma Français Etoile du Cinéma Award Won
ShinFilm Art Film Festival Shin Sang-ok Director Award Won
Pingyao International Film Festival Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon East-West Award Won
Oslo Film from the South Festival Silver Mirror Award Won
New Mexico Film Critics Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Best Adapted Screenplay Won
Key West Film Festival Best Foreign Language Film Won
Greater Western New York Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
London Film Week Best Film Won
Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Jury Grand Prize Won
2019 Club Média Ciné Best Foreign Language Film Won
International Cinephile Society Best Adapted Screenplay Won
91st Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film Shortlisted
Latino Entertainment Film Awards Best Foreign Language Film Won
Austin Film Critics Association Best Foreign Language Film Won
International Cinephile Society Best Adapted Screenplay Won
13th Asian Film Awards Best Director Won
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
MOOOV Film Festival Sembène Award Won
45th Saturn Awards Best International Film Won

Local awards[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1995 Blue Dragon Film Awards Best Film A Single Spark Won
1997 Blue Dragon Film Awards Green Fish Won
2000 Grand Bell Awards Peppermint Candy Won
2003 Baeksang Arts Awards Best Director Oasis Won
2007 Korean Film Awards Best Picture Secret Sunshine Won
Best Director Won
Director's Cut Awards Best Director Won
Grand Bell Awards Special Award Won
2010 Grand Bell Awards Best Film Poetry Won
Best Screenplay Won
2011 Baeksang Arts Awards Best Director Won
2018 Buil Film Awards Best Director Burning Won
Grand Bell Awards Best Film Won
Korean Association of Film Critics Awards FIPRESCI Award Won
Cine 21 Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Won
2019 KOFRA Film Awards Best Director Won

References[edit]

  1. ^ Korean Writers The Novelists. Minumsa Press. 2005. p. 156. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  2. ^ "APSA Nominees and Winners". Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Press release). November 23, 2017.
  3. ^ Chow, Vivienne (March 17, 2019). "'Shoplifters' Wins Best Picture at Asian Film Awards". Variety. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  4. ^ "Chang-dong Lee". IMDB. Retrieved 2007-05-28.
  5. ^ "[역사속의 오늘] 이창동 베니스영화제 감독상". Imaeil (in Korean). September 8, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  6. ^ "[역사속의 오늘] 이창동 베니스영화제 감독상". Imaeil (in Korean). September 8, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  7. ^ "['오아시스' 베니스 영화제 감독상 쾌거] 수상소감 : 감독상 이창동". Hankyung (in Korean). September 9, 2002. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  8. ^ Scott, A. O. "Director Profile". NY Times/Allmovie. Retrieved 2006-10-07.
  9. ^ "Yes, Minister: Lee Chang-dong Interviewed". Firecracker/UK Film Council. 10 September 2005. Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved 2006-10-07.
  10. ^ "Former Culture Minister Lee Honored By French". Twitch Film. 29 October 2005. Archived from the original on 20 April 2008. Retrieved 2006-10-29.
  11. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Secret Sunshine". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
  12. ^ "Lee Chang-dong Lights Up Haruki Murakami Adaptation 'Burning'". Variety. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  13. ^ Maher, Cian (November 4, 2018). "What makes Haruki Murakami's books so alluring, yet near-impossible to adapt". Polygon.
  14. ^ O'Connor, Rory (May 16, 2018). "Cannes 2018 Review: Lee Chang Dong's Burning turns Haruki Murakami Into A Frothy Page Turner". The Film Stage.
  15. ^ Hopewell, John (May 19, 2018). "Cannes: 'Burning' Wins Fipresci Top Prize". Variety (magazine). Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  16. ^ Dalton, Ben (May 17, 2018). "'Burning' sets record score in history of Screen's Cannes jury grid". Screen Daily.
  17. ^ Roxborough, Scott (7 September 2018). "Oscars: South Korea Selects 'Burning' for Foreign-Language Category". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  18. ^ Park, Soomee (17 December 2018). "Academy Unveils 2019 Oscar Shortlists". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  19. ^ "THE TEN BEST FILMS OF 2018". Roger Ebert. 11 December 2018.
  20. ^ Lee, Hyowon (27 February 2019). "Hong Kong Film Fest: South Korean Director Lee Chang-dong to Get Lifetime Honor". The Hollywood Reporter.
  21. ^ Chow, Vivienne (March 17, 2019). "'Shoplifters' Wins Best Picture at Asian Film Awards". Variety. Retrieved March 17, 2019.
  22. ^ Kotzathanasis, Panos (April 21, 2018). "Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: The Realistically Melodramatic Cinema of the "Marginalized" - Part 1". Hancinema. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  23. ^ Kotzathanasis, Panos (April 21, 2018). "Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: The realistically melodramatic cinema of the "marginalized" - Part 2". Hancinema. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
  24. ^ "Korea's Blue Dragon Award Nominees Announced". The Hollywood Reporter. November 10, 2010.
  25. ^ Frater, Patrick (December 3, 2018). "'Burning' Director Lee Chang-dong: Still Angry After All These Years". The Hollywood Reporter.
  26. ^ Pilastro, Eleonora (6 November 2018). "Interview with Lee Chang-Dong: 'Burning' and the Matter of Reality". The Italian Reve.
  27. ^ Chan, Andrew (February 6, 2019). "Big Bad World: A Conversation with Lee Chang-dong". Criterion.
  28. ^ Lim, Dennis (October 25, 2018). "Interview: Lee Chang-dong". Film Comment.
  29. ^ Pomp, Joseph (2014). "Great Directors: Lee Chang-dong". Sense of Cinema.
  30. ^ Kotzathanasis, Panos (April 21, 2018). "Lee Chang-dong Retrospective: The Realistically Melodramatic Cinema of the "Marginalized" - Part 1". Hancinema.
  31. ^ Wilentz, David (2008). "The Unseen and the Unspoken: The Films of Lee Chang Dong". The Brooklyn Rail. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  32. ^ Cronk, Jordan (2018). "Burning (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea) — Special Presentations". Cinema Scope.
  33. ^ Vijn, Ard (August 22, 2011). "IFFR 2011: An interview with LEE CHANG-DONG". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  34. ^ Vélez, Diva (February 14, 2019). "Interview: Lee Chang-dong at MoMA, Part 2 of 2 - On Actors and Advice to Future Filmmakers". Screen Anarchy. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  35. ^ Miz Diva, Lady (February 2, 2019). "[Interview] The Lady Miz Diva Meets Lee Chang-dong Part 2 of 2". Hancinema. Retrieved March 9, 2019.
  36. ^ Taylor-Jones, Kate E. (2013). "Lee Chang-dong and the Trauma of History". Rising Sun, Divided Land: Japanese and South Korean Filmmakers. Columbia University Press.
  37. ^ Korean Literature Translation Institute (2005). Korean Writers: The Novelists. Minumsa Press. p. 157.
  38. ^ Joseph Pomp (2014). "Great Directors: Lee Chang-dong". Sense of Cinema.
  39. ^ "The Dreaming Beast". Translated by Heinz Insu Fenkl. Azalea. 2007. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  40. ^ Heinz Insu Fenkl (2007). "On the Narratography of Lee Chang-dong: A Long Translator's Note". The Korea Institute, Harvard University. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  41. ^ "On Destiny. Lee Chang-dong". Translated by Soyoung Kim. Asymptote. 2018. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  42. ^ Brzeski, Patrick (October 12, 2018). "Oscars: South Korea's Lee Chang-dong on the Many Mysteries of 'Burning'". The Hollywood Reporter.
  43. ^ "장관시절을 묻자 그는, 한참을 망설였다…영화감독 이창동". Imaeil (in Korean). April 26, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  44. ^ "Dismissed producer returns as new president of MBC after nearly 2,000 day absence". Hankyoreh. December 8, 2017. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  45. ^ "'버닝' 이창동 문성근 최승호, 진보인사 3인방의 '반갑다 친구야'". Single List (in Korean). May 18, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2019.

External links[edit]