YIDFF 2005 New Asian Currents
Back to the Soil
An Interview with Kwon Woo-jung (Director)

Farmers in Distress and in Glory

Q: Why did you decide to shoot this film?

KW: This is my second film. The first was a critique of the government’s agricultural policies. Some people aren’t interested in agriculture or farmers, and don’t have a sense of the issues. I made this piece because I wanted people like that to understand the difficulties and hardships of agriculture through seeing the real lives of farmers. I don’t have any experience in agriculture and wasn’t born into a farming family, but I wanted to have people from my generation stand in the main character’s shoes and get interested through this film. I show a year in the lives of Lee and his wife, and unravel their lives. I hope this work conveys the importance of agriculture.

Q: Were there any changes in your state of mind during the course of filming?

KW: At first I tried to depict the hardship of living in a farming village over the course of a year, and but Lee Geun-hyeok was managing his relationships well within agriculture and the farming village society. He was successful economically this year, though in fact it’s like gambling and you never know about the next year. It was ironic that other people had poor harvests while theirs was a bumper crop that year. I gradually shifted my approach to express his point of view that agriculture is like gambling.

Q: What do you think is the appeal of Lee Geun-hyeok?

KW: What I really like is that he isn’t easily swayed psychologically. The good thing was his character. He follows his own path. I think it’s that he expresses himself through action rather than words.

Q: It seemed like he was unsettled when speaking about his father’s illness, but did you have some intention in including that scene in the film?

KW: He respected his father not only as a father, but as a farmer, so I think some special emotions came out.

Q: Why are there two bonfire scenes?

KW: In the prologue bonfire scene, Lee Geun-hyeok spoke with certainty about how the future of agriculture is unclear. I used it in the prologue because it conveys his essential character. The second one is in the chapter on asphalt agriculture, and I wanted to show farmers fighting even outside agriculture. Burning the bonfire signified bringing closure to the year with the end of that movement.

Q: The scene of his father’s funeral seems different from other sections of the film, but was this intentional?

KW: Agriculture is not passed down from generation to generation as much as it once was. But, it’s being passed down within the Lee family, so I wanted to convey that through the father’s funeral. And in one of my favorite scenes, on his father’s birthday, his father visits Lee Geun-hyeok’s field. The father looks at the field and murmurs, you’re not doing too bad. I like it because it shows that there’s a certain regard they feel towards each other as people involved with agriculture.

Q: Are there any ideas that form the basis for your works?

KW: I think it’s about enabling the audience to experience the things that I felt in the farmer’s lives. I wanted to show that people who farm have dreams and live to the fullest, and they aren’t different from me or anyone else. They were beautiful as they worked toward fulfilling their dreams, and that’s what I wanted audiences to see, more than simply the importance of agriculture.

(Compiled by Sasaki Masahito)

Interviewers: Sasaki Masahito, Hayasaka Mitsuko / Interpreter: Yamazaki Remina
Photography: Suzuki Takafumi / Video: Ohara Yuki / 2005-10-10