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Korea’s Star Directors Are Poised for Their Big 2017 Releases

Variety logo Variety 2/9/2017 Sonia Kil
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After a strong year for Korean cinema during which diverse genre movies and returning works from top directors enjoyed popularity, 2017 is likely to see another set of blockbusters from big names.

One of South Korea’s best-known international filmmaker, Bong Joon-ho (“Snowpiercer”), is expected to be the first to make a return. Shot in Seoul, New York, and Vancouver, Bong’s latest, “Okja,” is an international production with an investment of $50 million from Netflix. Brad Pitt’s Plan B is involved as a co-producer. With Korean Ahn Seo-hyun in the lead, the picture also stars Tilda Swinton, Jake Gyllenhaal, Lily Collins and Paul Dano.

In “Okja,” a Korean girl risks everything to prevent a multinational company from kidnapping her best friend, a beast called Okja.

The pic will premiere on Netflix in the first half of 2017 and will receive a limited day-and-date theatrical release in the U.S. A theatrical release in South Korea is also being considered.

Ryoo Seung-wan, whose “Veteran” was the biggest film domestically in 2015, is returning with historical title “Gunhamdo.” The $19 million period drama is set in the Japanese colonial era and tells of 400 Koreans who are forced into hard labor on a remote island.

“Gunhamdo” stars A-listers Hwang Jung-min, So Ji-sub, and Song Joong-ki and is set for a summer release. CJ Entertainment, the film’s investor-distributor, said that it may be simultaneously released in South Korea and China.

Two-part fantasy blockbuster “Along With God” will mark Kim Yong-hwa’s first directorial work in four years, since 3D sports drama “Mr. Go.”

Based on Joo Ho-min’s webtoon series of the same name, “God” revolves around an angel of death that gets involved in human affairs even though he’s not allowed to. Simultaneously shot, the two parts of the story are respectively set for summer releases in 2017 and 2018.

Lotte Entertainment will distribute. China’s Alpha Pictures, which will release the pic in China, contributed some $2 million to its $25 million budget.

Warner Bros. and Fox’s local-language production divisions, which enjoyed a fruitful year with Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” and Na Hong-jin’s “The Wailing,” respectively, are also ready to present films by high-profile directors.

Backed by Warner Bros. Korea, “New World” director Park Hoon-jung’s crime actioner “V.I.P.” is set for a theatrical release in the first half of the year.

Fox has historical movie “Proxy Soldiers,” Chung Yoon-chul’s first film in eight years since “A Man Who Was Superman.”

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