The Korea Herald


‘Father’s Heart’ shows journey of dad who lost son meeting son who lost dad

Documentary marks Korea’s first Christian film to be screened in US

By Kim Da-sol

Published : July 15, 2023 - 16:01

    • Link copied

“The Father’s Heart” (Dream Fact Entertainment) “The Father’s Heart” (Dream Fact Entertainment)

Director Kim Sang-cheol, an established filmmaker here focusing on Christian films, returns with new documentary film “The Father’s Heart,” which shows the journey of Hwang Tae-hwan, an influencer also known as Hajun Papa on YouTube and Instagram, through the Philippines, South Korea, Rwanda and the US.

Hwang, whose followers on YouTube and Instagram surpass 500,000, lost his second son at just 6 months old in 2020. He died of sudden cardiac arrest.

The film starts with Hwang visiting a 10-year-old girl in the Philippines after she lost both her parents in an accident. There, he begins down a journey to meet people who are supporting vulnerable kids living in poverty through Compassion International. Compassion International is an American child sponsorship and Christian humanitarian aid organization headquartered in Colorado.

“Some ask whether this is a promotional film for Compassion, but it’s not just about this one NGO. This is not about asking you to help a child somewhere in the world. But this movie asks what it is to live a life full of happiness and love,” director Kim told The Korea Herald during an interview at CGV Yongsan in Seoul, Wednesday.

According to Kim, some 160 moviegoers decided to support children in poverty immediately after a special screening held last week. The film’s official release is Saturday.

“I’m sure that people were moved and touched by the film’s portrayal of people who have no single reason to be happy, but who are living a happy life,” said Hwang, who currently funds 129 children through Compassion International. His first donation was in 2019.

Kim said he had long wanted to shed light on the story of American pastor Everett Swanson, the founder of Compassion International. As it seemed like a story too far removed from Korean moviegoers, he asked Hwang to work as a “bridge.”

“It seemed like the point of empathy between the audience and the story of Swanson was weak. And Hwang came to mind, one of the most diligent and happiest people around me helping others,” said Kim, adding that Hwang starred in the film without pay and also traveled at his own cost over the two years of filming.

Is this film for Christians? Both Kim and Hwang said the movie is about the story, not just Christian values.

“One of the most shocking stories I heard while shooting this film was that when a fire broke out at a young African girl’s house, she rushed back to the blazing house and among the first things she came out with was a letter from her donor. Because she had not received that kind of love or support before, it was the most precious thing for her. Just like we don’t feel the sweetness of candy when we eat it every day, for some, love, support and happiness could be a kind of feeling that is very new and very precious,” said Hwang.

While religion-focused films are a genre that even Christian filmmakers here avoid making due to low popularity as well as limited budgets, Kim has already produced eight films, including “The Disciple John Oak,” “Stigma” and “The Forgotten Bag.” “The Father’s Heart” is his ninth.

“I don’t want to categorize this film as a Christian film because the message in this movie is beyond that category, because it is something that transcends borders and has universal values. There are many non-Christian donors who support Compassion International in the US. We’re excited to show Korea’s first-ever export of a Christian film to the US and hope that it can motivate other fellow filmmakers to make more movies,” said Kim.

“The Father’s Heart” opens in local theaters Saturday.

“The Father’s Heart” (Dream Fact Entertainment) “The Father’s Heart” (Dream Fact Entertainment)