A few days ago, I went to the Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) which is a fantastic platform for individuals to know Korean culture through films. The 9th Korean Film Festival in Australia only selected 16 films to release during 6-13 September in Melbourne. However, these 16 films are in a wide range of themes that enable people to understand Korean culture in different angles. In recent years, there are quite few great Korean movies produced by hot Korean filmmakers in film market and change individuals’ mind that the Korean style is not only the romantic love stories.
This time, I chose the movie A Taxi Driver which is a South Korean historical action drama film directed by Jang Hoon, with Song Kang-ho starring in the title role, alongside Thomas Kretschmann. The film mainly talks about a taxi driver from Seoul, who unintentionally becomes involved in the events of the Gwangju Democratization Movement in 1980. This film is not a new film in 2018 and it first released on August 2, 2017 in South Korea. This film represented South Korea entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Oscar Academy Awards, but it was not nominated. It is no doubt that A Taxi Driver won a great commercial success which is the second top grossing film in 2017. At the same time, it triggers the public to think about how to face the history no matter the history is pride or disgrace.
The film tells the story of the 1980 South Korean Chun Doo-hwan government suppressing the Gwangju democracy movement. Since Chung Doo-hwan won the power after the assassination of Park Chung-hee in 1979, and announced the national martial law the following year, closed the university and the parliament, and arrested opposition leaders and demonstrators. On May 18, 1980, protesters took to the streets in Gwangju City and were shot and suppressed by Korean soldiers. At that time, the Korean media was strictly controlled by the government, and many foreign journalists were unable to report because the Korean army pulled the cordon near Gwangju. A Korean taxi driver became the unsung hero in the incident. He drove the German journalist Jurgen Hinzpeter twice through the military cordon, allowing Hintzpit to take the crackdown and play it to the world. Hintzpit later recalled that the soldiers at the military checkpoints asked them to turn around but the driver drove the car to a nearby village and inquired about the other roads into Gwangju. The driver named Kim Sa-bok, and Hintzpitt search for him many times before his death in 2016, but he could not find him.
After the film was released, a man named Kim Sueng-pil stated that his father was the prototype of a movie character and provided a photo of his father and Hintzpitt as proof. Kim Sueng-pil said that his father died of illness after 4 years in Gwangju.
This is a successful and impressive film without magnificent scene and special effects but touch the audience in details. A great movie should not be berry and it has the mission to show the world its inside meaning. Maybe this is the meaning and function of film festival, discovering some excellent film for the public that enable the audience to know more about the history and culture of a nation through the film. At the same time, it is no doubt that the film festival also a springboard for the film directors to connect with the global market.