An Interview with The First Lap Director Kim Dae-hwan

News category: Blog

Festival Advisor Simon Ward discusses our Closing Film, The First Lap, with director Kim Dae-hwan ahead of its 08 November UK Premiere.

Simon Ward: Korean cinema has produced a large number of glossy commercial genre films over the last two decades. The First Lap clearly stands apart from these and was a Jeonju Film Festival commission. How do you see the role of Jeonju, and indeed festivals like the LKFF, within independent cinema?

Kim Dae-hwan: In fact, I like independent movies because they are light. Mobility and autonomy are the main attractions of an independent film. That's why I look for an overall scenario rather than a precise plan, and I come across unexpected scenes. It's a thrilling situation. And living in an age when you can make films alone, independent filmmaking allows you to try various approaches. It takes courage to try. The Jeonju International Film Festival gave me courage. The same goes for other film festivals. The role of the film festival is to instil courage in the directors who want to try different approaches.

SW. Can you remember your very first idea which gave birth to The First Lap?

KD: I had been with my girlfriend for about nine years. At some point, the subject of marriage came up, but we found it difficult to know how to proceed. For many friends of my age, marriage has come to them like a great wall, and it was the same for me. I wondered why and I wanted to find the answer through the movie. Marriage in Korea is not only a promise between two people, but also a meeting between two families. I naturally wanted to show the reality of Korean family life through these two examples, and I wanted to follow Su-hyeon and Ji-young while climbing a high mountain range, going west and east.

SW: You draw a clear parallel between Su-hyeon and Ji-young’s need for personal change and the recent political protest movement around ex-President Park. Why did you choose to politicize this seemingly domestic love story?

KD: I have never participated in any demonstrations nor spoken out loud. The same goes for my friends. But in last year's political situation, I could not stand alone; I participated in the protest and voiced my opinions loudly. It was a great experience. Sharing one voice with a lot of people was an exhilarating feeling that I couldn’t explain in words. Although the scenario already existed, making the movie provoked me to question myself to find the answer, so I gave up the scenario, asked the actors questions, and directed the process of finding the answer. At that time, the situation in Korea was similar to the one in the movie, and I wonder if Su-hyeon, who was not normally interested in politics, would naturally follow the atmosphere at that time.

SW: Men in The First Lap seem consistently weak and destructive, while women demonstrate strength through refusing to accept the status quo. What was your process for creating the characters in The First Lap?

KD: I do not know what the usual way to portray a character is, but when I created the characters, it was important for them to be real people. I tried not to match the character to the story, but to match the story to the character. I created each story through the space, the setting, and the current situation and history of the characters. The film made it appropriate for the situation.

SW: If this was the first lap, what might the second lap contain for Su-hyeon and Ji-young?

KD: I don’t think there will be much difference in the second lap. I guess they will grow closer to each other a little more.