South Korean Filmmaker and Alum Hong Sangsoo Returns to Cannes Film Festival, Picks Up Top Prize

Hong SangsooView slideshow 

Alum Hong Sangsoo’s feature film Hahaha: What Do You See in Life, Darling? received top honors in the respected Un Certain Regard award category at the 63rd annual Cannes Film Festival. Sangsoo, whose film was one of 18 in this category and the third South Korean film in the overall selection, won over such celebrated filmmakers as French director Jean-Luc Godard (Film Socialisme).

Un Certain Regard jury president and film director Claire Denis announced the winners May 22 at the Théâtre Claude Debussy in Cannes. Other jurors included Helena Lindblad (film critic from Sweden) Patrick Ferla (journalist from Switzerland), Dongho Kim (Pusan Film Festival, South Korea), and Serge Toubiana (Cinémathèque Française).

Hahaha is the tenth film Hong Sangsoo has written and directed and marks the filmmakers fourth return to the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival (two in Un Certain Regard and two in Competition). The film stars Kim Sangkyung, Yu Junsang, and Moon Sori. The plot involves two main characters: Jo Munkyung, a Korean filmmaker in the process of moving from Seoul to Canada; and his friend, Bang Jungshik, a film critic.

As the two men get together to share makgeolli, a traditional Korean alcoholic beverage, they quickly realize they each have recently visited the seaside town of Tongyeong. Agreeing to recount only the happy memories of their steamy summer vacations, it becomes evident they were each there at the same time and with the same people.

Sangsoo has twice been nominated for the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival for his films Tale of Cinema and Woman is the Future of Man. In addition to the Cannes Film Festival, he has screened films at the Berlin International Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival.

The filmmaker first studied film in his native South Korea at Chungang University. He then attended CCA, graduating with distinction in 1985 with a BFA in Film/Video. After earning an MFA from The Art Institute of Chicago, Sangsoo returned to South Korea to work with SBS, a broadcasting company.

In 1996 Sangsoo made his directorial debut with The Day a Pig Fell into a Well, his first feature film, which received international critical acclaim, including awards in Korea, Rotterdam, and Vancouver.

Sangsoo is best known for his understated narrative style and unconventional plot development. While his actors’ interactions and dialogue seem based on the everyday—even banal—reality of life, his films speak toward complex social structures and the intricacies of interpersonal relationships.

Said Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, "One of the pleasures of Mr. Sangsoo’s films is their complexity or, more precisely, the pleasures you get as a viewer from working through the involved structures and filling in gaps and silences."

According to a 2004 press kit for Woman is the Future of Man, Sangsoo revealed, "People tell me that I make films about reality. They're wrong. I make films based on structures that I have thought up."

Watch a trailer (in Korean).

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Hahaha by Hong Sangsoo