With hits like “The Thieves,” “Assassination,” and “Tazza: The High Rollers” under his credit, Choi Dong-hoon has been the leader among Korean directors for at least the past 15 years. He is now leading the Korean film industry’s exploration into science fiction.
The New York Asian Film Festival recently featured Choi’s “Alienoid” for American viewers, and starting on August 26 it will be available in North American theatres. In an interview with Variety, ‘Alienoid’ director Choi Dong-hoon talks about the production of the film and the growing interest of Korean cinema in the sci-fi genre.
Variety asked Choi about the Korean cinema’s growing interest in the sci-fi genre. He replied:
In contrast to the west, Korea has no tradition of science fiction literature. Sci-fi books were first published in the West. The sci-fi literature was followed by movies. The current sci-fi movement in Korean cinema is solely the result of the filmmakers’ curiosity. What kinds of products and narratives are possible within this genre?
I believe that “Alienoid” will be a reference for other sci-fi films that come later. But that doesn’t mean that I have to take responsibility for them. Other directors’ work comes from their own imagination and preferences.
With shooting spread over 13 months, this must be one of Korea’s longest and most expensive film productions Why was that?
Living through the pandemic and making the film during the pandemic, was so difficult. We were always washing our hands. Sanitizer went with us everywhere. But if you think about it, films even get made during wartime. So why allow ourselves to be stopped? The CGI portion was always going to be a big component of this film and it was a bit of a burden for me. But as soon as we started shooting, I realized that the key was not the CGI, but the characters.
Similarly, all my actors initially felt a little uncomfortable, acting in front of the green screen. But we all understood that we were making a film about people, that the CGI would be around us and that our film was not there to show off CGI technology. Once I figured out the process, that became quite fun too.
And at the end of the day, everybody who was involved in this project learned something.
As an example, the Madam Black character uses a mirror to enlarge her fists and grab the alien. When we were shooting that scene, our focus was not the realization of the hand itself, it was more on how someone could put their hand through the mirror without hurting herself.
How confident are you in the future of Korean cinema and the theatrical experience?
Movie theatres are experiencing huge chaos. And there’s growing doubt about whether theatres will be the place for mass entertainment. So, today, a lot of creators, including screenwriters and film directors, are leaning toward streaming today. However, I strongly believe that movie-going experiences will last forever.
Theatres have the ability to deliver a collective experience that is only possible inside a cinema. When I was little, right before the film started, I remember my heart always beat a little faster. Those moments when an audience inside a dark theater laughs together or is surprised together are moments of pure joy and timeless happiness.