We had the extreme pleasure of sitting down with Alice in Earnestland director Ahn Goocjin, main actress Lee Junghyun and cinematographer Lee Seokjun, as well as VIFF volunteer and Korean-to-English translator, Sara Kim. Alice in Earnestland won the Best Korean Feature and Jeonju 15 awards. This will be the film’s North American premiere.
JD: How would you describe your film to someone who hasn’t seen it yet?
AG: That’s a good question! This film is a sarcastic black comedy that shows the reality of Korea.
JD: Why did you choose black comedy as your film genre?
AG: I generally have darker thoughts and so while I was working on it, I chose black comedy because it naturally comes to me. I wanted to address satire in a way people could engage in.
JD: Soonam, the main character, is clearly dealing with some intense, emotional issues. What was it like getting inside her head?
LJ: When I first received the screenplay, I was really excited because it’s so rare to have a strong, female character in film. This was what attracted me to the story from the beginning. What’s so interesting about Soonam is that she is so devoted to her husband. This devotion leads to obsession which eventually leads to murder. All this stemmed from love. It was interesting to see the story evolve into something dark and emotional.
JD: What was it like directing a script that you wrote yourself?
AG: It’s very common in Korea for a director to write his or her own script. It’s a continuous style of work. To direct a screenplay I’ve written is such an extraordinary experience. While I was given more freedom, it was also very personal for me. But it was a lot of fun!
JD: Why did you decide you to pursue film as a career?
AG: It was always my dream. Every since I was around nine, ten years old, I knew I wanted to be creating films. I loved watching foreign actors on screen. It felt like I was able to experience their lives through film and so that aspect really interested me. Also, I wanted to use film as an outlet to share with others what I have to say.
LJ: I started in the film industry when I was fifteen. When I was nineteen, I started studying singing as well. It feels as though I’ve always been involved in both acting and singing. It has all become such a large aspect of my life. It’s very important to me.
LS: I agree with the reasons Ahn Goocjin said. I believe that film is the complete channel for artwork because it includes so many different creative elements. I chose film because I knew it would mean my life would never get boring. I also love being able to create life within the parameters of a screen.
JD: What do you think makes a great film? Are there certain aspects that make a film better to you?
LJ: A good script! And dealing with a topic that is overlooked in the audiences’ lives personally so when they see it on film, they become engaged.
AG: A real, relatable main character. Someone who is not perfect but human. Someone that the audience can relate to. And a story that makes people feel something. When a story has that deep sense of emotion that is universal, it means that people will be able to identify with it.
JD: What was your most memorable moment on set?
LJ: While I was acting out the scene where Soonam is driven to murder, I had to portray so many different emotions. Sometimes the director doesn’t cut a scene right away and keeps on recording. He did this for this scene, and it was freeing to be able to express Soonam’s emotions. The way it was executed wasn’t planned or written in the script, so I was truly given freedom in my delivery.
JD: Do you have any new and upcoming projects you are working on?
AG: Maybe? Maybe horror? I’m planning on working on something less independent, more commercial.
LJ: I’m planning to have concerts coming up, and I’m trying to pick out the next film project myself.
LS: I’m always shooting something, and I’m always looking for good, well-written screenplays.
JD: Lastly, is there a message or theme you hope Alice in Earnestland brings to your audience?
AG: I wasn’t ready for this one, haha. Hmm. This film is very Korean, and it is very different from the western world so I’ve been worried about how the audience will view it. I want to highlight the hardships of Korean workers. Politically, there are dark components behind the Korean society. I’m very curious about how Canadians and everyone else will interpret this. There is a saying, “The rich stay rich, and the poor stay poor.” I wanted to showcase the angles of this idea and examine the truth behind it.
Be sure to read Schema Magazine’s review of this film by Miguel Santa Maria!