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[Herald Interview] Women of 40-somethings who still dream, challenge

Director Kim Cho-hee, actress Kang Mal-geum discuss ‘Lucky Chan-sil’

Director Kim Cho-hee (Woo Sang Hee Studio)
Director Kim Cho-hee (Woo Sang Hee Studio)

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the film “Lucky Chan-sil” is maintaining a steady performance in the box office, just like the protagonist who endures unexpected hardships in the film.

While the release of many films have been postponed due to the historically low turnout at cinemas due the spread of the highly contagious respiratory illness, director Kim Cho-hee said she decided to open her latest film as scheduled because of her belief, which she says is also the main message of “Lucky Chan-sil.”

“In the film, we show Chan-sil, who unexpectedly loses her job, not trying to escape her jobless and homeless reality but facing it and trying to get through the period. I felt I was in a similar situation. I didn’t want to push back the set dates and try to evade what I was facing. I wanted to make the best choice under the given situation,” Kim told The Korea Herald during an interview in Seoul on Wednesday.

Director Kim, 44, and the films lead actress Kang Mal-geum, 41, are both late bloomers, making their feature-length debut with “Lucky Chan-sil.”

Just like Chan-sil, Kim had a long period of ups and downs on her road to becoming a director.

Studying film in France, Kim got her start with director Hong Sang-soo’s production team for “Night and Day.” Returning to Korea, she again joined Hong’s team as a film producer. Although she was a producer, her work covered a lot more. In 2015, after more than seven years of working day and night, she quit without hesitation.

“The character Chan-sil was inspired by myself. I was 41 when I quit my job and felt like I had nothing, even though I had done my best doing what I thought was my passion. To overcome such feelings, I started to write screenplays. After some five re-writes, I finished what became the script for ‘Lucky Chan-sil,’” Kim said. 

Actress Kang Mal-geum (REVERSE)
Actress Kang Mal-geum (REVERSE)

Seeing herself in Chan-sil, actress Kang accepted the role.

“I had lived my life trying to do something I wanted to do, but at one point, when I looked back on my life, I was in my 40s with no family, no husband and no kids,” Kang said.

Kang started acting at 30. After graduating university, she worked at a small company in Busan for six years. She was always unhappy back then, complaining about life, Kang recalled, ending the day with one or two sips of drink, and waking up in tears to repeat the same again the next day.

“I had always wanted to act. I was a part of a college theater troupe and even when I was working I went to the theater at least once or twice a week. Although I wanted to act, I couldn’t even say my hopes out loud because I thought it was too distant a dream.”

At age 30, moving to Seoul and away from home, Kang mustered up the courage act. Although at an age considered too old for most people to try a new job, Kang didn’t weigh the risks.

“I started working at a puppet show. I didn’t even speak but just moved the puppets. When I got to stand on the stage, I was usually given roles of middle-aged or elderly ladies because of my age,” Kang said.

For Kang, “Lucky Chan-sil” seemed the last rope of hope.

Director Kim knew Kang was perfect for the role of Chan-sil when she saw Kang in the film, “The Monologue.”

“Kang had the face that showed how diligently and sincerely she had lived her life,” Kim said.

According to Kang, there are many people like Chan-sil around us and she wanted the film to portray such reality.

“There are many women around me who are not married because they have been busy working and building their own lives. But it’s rare that a film centers on such a woman,” Kang said.

“Just like I was inspired by the movie, I hope the movie can comfort people who feel they are failing or falling behind others,” Kang said.

By Choi Ji-won (