The Korea Herald


[New on the Scene] Kim Chang-hoon is determined to tell stories from his heart

By Kim Da-sol

Published : Oct. 11, 2023 - 13:21

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Director Kim Chang-hoon (Plus M Entertainment) Director Kim Chang-hoon (Plus M Entertainment)

It’s rare for a rookie director like Kim Chang-hoon, whose debut action noir “Hopeless” hits local theaters this week, to be invited to the Cannes International Film Festival.

“(The festival took place in) a foreign country so I couldn’t really understand the feedback (I received). But just last week in Busan, I was able to meet with local audiences and hear their responses and communicate with them,” Kim told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on Tuesday.

Kim and the actors from “Hopeless” attended the Busan International Film Festival which kicked off last Thursday for the Korean premiere of the film and for open talk sessions.

As the screenwriter and director of “Hopeless,” a film revolving around Yeo-kyu (Hong Sa-bin), a teenager abused by his stepfather, and his encounter with the right-hand man of a gang boss, Chi-gun (Song Joong-ki), Kim said he thought deeply about how the decisions one makes have consequences.

“When I was working on the scenario of ‘Hopeless,’ I was in a financially and mentally difficult situation. I thought about how you reap what you sow,” he said.

“I took on so many part time jobs to make ends meet while preparing for this film. I can’t even list them all because I did so many. I worked at a motel during the day and worked on my scenario while all the guests were asleep at night. Of course, it was a really difficult time, but I really appreciate it because I was able to write ‘Hopeless’ there,” he added.

“Hopeless” (Plus M Entertainment) “Hopeless” (Plus M Entertainment)

The topic he delved into through the film was violence.

“There is both small and large scale violence in the film. I wanted to show what violence can lead to in one's life. Specifically, I wanted to show what happens when someone crosses paths with a crooked person, and when they absorb and learn the wrong, violent aspects of life,” he added.

The film garnered industry and audience attention even before its release, not just for its screening at Cannes, but also because actor Song Joong-ki took up his supporting role without pay. Song told The Korea Herald in an earlier interview that he did this because wanted to bring this story to the screen without changing its core, and because any added cost to the project would mean having to seek outside investment, which could affect the storyline and the film's direction. Song also took part in the film's production.

“Although many are familiar with Song's gentle and nice guy image, I have seen his sharp, edgy, cold-hearted moments on screen. I even found myself wondering why no one else has ever used these aspects of his image," said director Kim, explaining his reason for casting Song.

“Because he is more experienced than me, he would give me gentle reminders on set, as well as insights and suggestions to make sure our film had more realistic scenes ... scenes that are alive,” Kim said.

The director's pick of rookie actors Hong Sa-bin and Kim Hyeong-seo, who is also known as singer Bibi, is also related to his determination to portray the reality of the characters.

“I believed that casting relatively unknown faces in our film would help the audience immerse themselves more into the movie, making them believe that people like Yeon-kyu (Hong) and Ha-yan (Kim) live all around us, in our neighborhoods. … I’m 200 percent satisfied with my decision and their acting on screen,” said director Kim.

While it’s just the beginning for him, director Kim knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.

“I’m determined to only tell stories that come from within me, not based on the logic or formula that typical commercial films might have. I hope my style of movie can fit well with audiences who want to hear the director’s stories. I will have to also think deeply about how I can show my stories, and stories about other worlds, in a more entertaining way,” he said, adding that he has already started work on the scenario for the next project, which will also be another crime flick, only less dark.

“Hopeless” hits local theaters on Thursday.

The following article is the tenth in a series that introduces Korea’s new and emerging actors and directors. -- Ed.