‘The King and the Clown’ picked as Korean contender for foreign film Oscar


SEOUL, Sept. 21 (Yonhap) — South Korea selected "The King and the Clown," a period drama by Lee Joon-ik, as its contender for next year’s foreign film Oscar, hoping it will bring the country’s first Academy award home.

The 16th-century tale beat its contemporary rivals, "The Host" by Bong Joon-ho and "Time" by Kim Ki-duk, with its better potential to appeal to a U.S. audience, the Korean Film Council said.

"The three contenders had all their own unique qualities that will have each of them stand at the front row of Korean movies, and it was the juries’ consensus that comparing them by their quality was impossible," the council said in a press release.

The clown movie was a surprise box office hit in the country, having cost just 6 billion won (US$6 million) and starring no big names for the quirky historic tale. It revolves around two clowns and the real-life merciless King Yeonsan whose psychologoical instability led to the arbitrary killings of critics at the court in the early 16th century. Its humor of the lower-class, brilliant depiction of Korea’s traditional tight-rope walking and the deftly-woven plot broke the local viewer record of 12.3 million in March.

The movie has tough language and cultural barriers to break through to reach foreign audiences, but its revival of medieval lives in Korea and artistry are ample enough to appeal, the council said.

"Ultimately, the juries decided ‘The King and the Clown’ would have the best potential, with its depth of historical, traditional and Asian emotions, if translations are well-done," Tae Eun-jung, a council official who coordinated the selection, said.

The low-budget movie "Time," a unique story of a woman who decides to have plastic surgery to keep her bored lover, shines with the director’s originality but raised doubts among the juries that its distinctiveness could not fit in an Academy that values popularity. Also, "The Host" is praised for its deft plot, clever satire and visual effects, but the monster movie could be seen as a B movie from the view of the U.S. audience, it said.

With no history of the Academy nominating a Korean movie, local experts are upbeat that chances are higher than ever this time with the renaissance of home-grown movies.

The film council will make the submission to the U.S. Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Committee by Oct. 13, which will announce the winner on Jan. 23 before the award ceremony to be held in February.

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Source: Yonhap News