Reel Asian Interview: Jeong Byeong Gil

Jeong Byeong Gil, director of Confession of Murder
Jeong Byeong Gil, director of Confession of Murder

On Friday November 8th, I was lucky enough to catch up with the director of Confession of Murder (내가 살인범이다), Jeong Byeong Gil (정병길), for an interview while he was in Toronto for the screening of his film at the 2013 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. It was a real honour to talk with him and he was absolutely lovely to interview, very friendly and well-spoken (a writer’s dream as he gave nice long answers to all of the questions). He was very gracious in allowing me to take a couple of pictures as well. 

Please note, all the answers were translated so they are not direct quotes. Huge thanks to So-Jeong Choi for translating. Keep reading for Jeong Byeong Gil’s answers. 

What made you choose to be a filmmaker?

So he has a background in arts, fine arts, and he thought that if he does film, he could work on every element of fine arts, music and all of the elements that he’s interested in. He thought it was all combined in the art of film.

You also wrote Confession of Murder. What was the inspiration for it?

There is a law called “gongso shihyo (공소 시효)” – a statute of limitations – which means if you commit a murder and a certain time passes, say 15 years, then you can’t be found guilty of the murder. So he imagined what would happen if there was a murderer who actually confesses to his crime by writing a book after the 15 years passed. And how would Korean society react to the murderer and the confession. He was curious about what would happen.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Previous to Confession of Murder, you made the documentary, Action Boys. How is making a feature film different from a documentary as a director?

So he has done short fiction films before the documentary film so the process wasn’t that difficult for him. The main difference was Action Boys was an independent film while Confession of Murder was a commercial film. He thought this was more his cup of tea, he liked making this more than making an independent documentary.

How did attending the Seoul Action School help you become a director?

Going to Seoul Action School is a very unconventional way to become a film director. Aspiring directors usually don’t attend. But by going to Seoul Action School he learned a lot about how stunt men work, how their life is, and how to do stunts himself. He uses that knowledge about how stunt action works to make his films. Knowing the action processes and not knowing it is very different when you’re making an action film so he thinks it’s helped him a lot in being an action film director.

What was the overall feel were you trying to portray in Confession of Murder? Specifically, how did you want the audience to react to the characters?

So he thought about the law, the gongso shihyo (공소 시효), the statute of limitations in Korea for murder, and he wanted it to be abolished. He wanted people to think it was an unnecessary law, especially for murder cases. He also wanted the audience to think about the side effects of mass communications, like how TV can affect people and how they view other people, especially the possible negative impact.

Interview with Jeong Byeong Gil
Interview with Jeong Byeong Gil

People often say that music is a universal language. Do you think film also has that power? Do you think audiences in Canada (North America) will react the same way that audiences in Korea did to your film?

So when he was making the film he wanted to grasp the audience’s attention right from the start and keep it throughout the film. So he wants that to translate to all audiences. But he hasn’t shown it to North American audiences yet so he wants to see everyone’s reaction on Saturday after the screening and he’ll understand better then.

In 2013 there have been a few big name Korean directors that have made English language films, are you planning on making one yourself?

He’s planning on making his next, next film to be an English language film. And he wants to produce it as an English language film.

Is there a film out there that you wish you had directed? Why?

So when he sees really good films, he doesn’t think that he wants to direct them, he thinks it’s their product, it’s what the director made. He just thinks he wants to make a film like that, something better than that. But his favourite film is Luc Besson’s Nikita.

What are you working on at the moment? Any new films?

Yes, he’s in the process of making a new film, a Korean film set in 1994, an SF action film.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you want your English-speaking fans to know?

So he doesn’t know if has enough fans to say something right now. But the English language film that he’s planning on making will have Hollywood actors and will target the North American audiences and other English language countries. So he wants them to pay attention to his movies and his new films coming out. He wants to share them with North American audiences. He’ll make a film that’s never going to bore you.

And finally, how can fans stay connected to you? Do you have any social media accounts or a website.

No, he doesn’t have any.

***

I just want to say “Thanks again for the lovely interview” to Jeong Byeong Gil as he was super friendly and soft-spoken in the interview. It was truly a pleasure and honour to speak with you. And yes, I did spend a lot of time in Hongdae when I lived in Seoul. ^^

You can catch his film tonight at Reel Asian. It’s screening at The Royal at 9:45 pm. Tickets available at the theatre.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday - this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it's taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I'm the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

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