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Cannes Facetime: Director Jung Byung-gil

Variety logo Variety 5/25/2017 Sonia Kil
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Jung Byung-gil, whose “The Villainess” unspools in in Cannes’ Midnight Screenings, has a unique background: he’s a stuntman who  trained at the Seoul Action School, which has naturally led him to focus on action films as a director. After his successful directorial debut with a documentary about stuntmen, “Action Boys” (2008), Jung then moved on to make commercial action thriller “Confession of Murder” (2012), which is currently being remade in Japan. After five long years, Jung is back with another hardboiled actioner.

It was easy to predict that your third feature would be another action film. How is “Villainess” different from your previous feature, “Confession”?

Compared to “Confession,” which featured two men chasing and deceiving each other within a crime case, “Villainess” is much more melodramatic. The story revolves around a female assassin who was fated to become a villainess and the love triangle that she finds herself stuck in. “Villainess” is also less speedy, compared to “Confession.”

Lack of women characters in commercial Korean films has long been criticized. What made you decide to feature an actress in the film’s lead role?

I always like doing the opposite of what people tell me to do. Put it this way: People say an action film led by an actress won’t work, but maybe that simply means no one tries it. I thought this was the right time to go for it myself.

Under the commercial filmmaking system in Korea, investors are not very keen on backing films with female characters in the center of the narrative. Did you have any difficulty finding investment?

Not at all. Next Entertainment World, my film’s investor-distributor, entrusted me with full powers in terms of development and production of “Villainess.” For a filmmaker, such trust is very important.

Action sequences in your films are very unique and smart. Is that what you learned at the Seoul Action School? Or do you refer to other filmmakers works?

Not really. The school’s program is all about using your body. As a child, I once dreamed about becoming a painter and studied painting. It is quite natural for me to sketch images in my head and put them together.

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