Roundtable Interview, Je-Kyu Kang
(As conducted through an interpreter)
Director of “My Way” (“Mai Wei”)
, April 17, 2012
Ronald Salfen, “The Presbyterian
First of all, may I say that my father was in World War II, along with
his brother, fighting in
, and I had two other uncles who served in the Pacific, so I very much
appreciated the historical accuracy of the renditions of the combat.
it difficult to re-create the combat in Manchuria and in The Ukraine and in
, and do it all in a historically verifiable way?
the three battle fronts, I would say the one in
was the most difficult to bring to the screen, because actually there’s very
little historical record left. This is
the battle where
probably sustained the largest casualties or fatalities in a single
battlefield, and their forces were so completely annihilated, that no real
record-keeping remains. So we were very
conscientious about making sure the clothing, the armament, the camp
scenes---all these things were as close to the historical record as possible.
But in that case there was very little that we had to go on, so it was
a lot of digging (research), academic dissertations as well as interviews of
actual participants. For example, a
detail like how the Japanese soldiers would have saluted, we brought veterans
on to the set to insure accuracy.
: It says “based on true events.”
How much was true, and how much had to be filled in?
historical reality of the film was the actual journey that takes place.
The movie kind of got started from a single photograph, of a soldier
who was captured as a POW at Normandy: and
so the journey of a Korean man who started in Seoul,
and ends up at Normandy, and wears three different military uniforms
along the way. That’s the actual
historical fact. The other parts of it
are the story that we built around it.
: Very fascinating. (Pause.) (To the
translator: How do you say that?)
He understood that!) (Everyone laughs)
was your film received in
Korean Army, of course, did not directly participate in World War Two, so our
people have not considered it as “our war.” So it was a new idea to them
that a Korean soldier would have participated, and that has generated some
interest in my country. As for Japanese
audiences, they appreciated seeing the bravery of the kamikaze and the
samurai, but seeing Tatsuo’s transformation during the film was not as
familiar to them, and not as comfortable. It’s
been interesting to see the audience reaction in
versus other countries. Generally, they
have not been as ready for this film as other places have been.
there still a good deal of enmity between
a really delicate issue, because from the outside, it looks like there is no
problem, but when we see these continuing issues crop up: the territory fight
over the small island between them, and the fight over the Japanese
textbooks---what’s in there and what’s not---the issue of “the comfort
women,” which has never been resolved---these are two countries not at war
now, but these issues continue to agitate the psyche, so that the wounds never
seem to have completely healed.
part was filmed in
it looked so much like the
location. Was there some CGI (computer
graphic imaging) used?
there was no enhancement; it was completely natural.
We looked everywhere for just the right site, and when we saw this
coastal line in
, we just clapped, we were so ecstatic. “Saving
Private Ryan” was actually filmed in
, and our budget could not have accommodated that.
But honestly, if Steven Spielberg had seen this location in
, he might have chosen it instead! (Everyone
: You used a lot of extras for the
battle scenes. How did you manage that?
budget didn’t allow for having a giant number of people, but if there was
anything I learned from my last film (Tae Guk Gi, “The Brotherhood of
War”), it was to make the least number count for the most bodies possible
: The addition of the female sniper was
an interesting injection of gender into a place otherwise not expected,
especially her capture and subsequent beating.
Did you feel you needed to handle that in a special way?
we looked at the record of that conflict, it wasn’t just the Japanese and
the Russians who were at war, but the Chinese were at war, also. And because
some of the Japanese units were not actually strictly military, but almost
like terrorist groups, there were records of the local populace taking it upon
themselves to retaliate, and become snipers, to avenge their families.
And that was part of the process of “growing the story out.”
As for the gender issue, I had heard so many comments about the
original script that it was so male (dominated), and maybe a little dry, this
was one of the opportunities I did have (to broaden the focus), that also made
sense inside the story.
: Just a hint of romance:
Translator (laughing): Yes, just a hint.
: They say there are no atheists in
foxholes, and yet I never saw anybody pray.
The person who prayed the most during this whole thing was probably me.
(Everyone laughs) Praying to your God is probably a large part of anyone’s
life. But because of the nature of the
multi-national cast, and staff, and different religions native to all those
different cultures, I thought a scene of prayer would divert attention. And
, as a country, does not want overt displays of religiosity.
English!) Thank you so much.