October 16, 2021

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Asian Filmmaker of the Year: Busan Honors Old Master, Im Quan Taek

2 min read

Busan’s Asian Filmmaker of the Year award is almost different from a lifetime achievement award. But it doesn’t have to diminish the recipient or the festival.

Im Kwon-Tayek is arguably South Korea’s best film director who was in more control of the country and the film industry in the modern era and earlier times.

At At5, I was not only one of the oldest working directors, he was also one of the most productive. In a career that has created 102 features from “Farewell Duman River” in 1962 to the 2014 title “Revibre” (aka “Hawajong”).

Born in provincial Guangzhou in 1934, I moved to Busan and eventually to Seoul, where he initially worked as a production assistant. For the first two decades of his directed career, he gained a reputation as a reliable passenger, able to deliver films according to the military government’s annual quota, without any particular artistic disposition.

He is believed to have achieved a breakthrough in a more artistic period with the 1981 title “Mandala” about Buddhist monks. Since then, he has developed a storytelling style that encompasses much more about Korean history and culture, as well as echoes popular sentiments and opinions of philosophy, religion, and morality touched on taboo subjects.

In 2000 and 2002, he directed two of the top titles of the New Korean Wave, “Chunhyang” and Chihwasion (“Painted Fire”), both played to the ear. “Chunhyang” is a favorite subject, representing a return to Pansori, a simple oral and musical stage tradition that he previously explored in “Sioponge”.
“Chihwazion” portrayed the extraordinary Choi Min-sik ragging as a 19th-century painter who fought against alcoholism and a repressive regime. It tied the knot with Paul Thomas Anderson and won Best Director at Cannes.

Im’s most recent feature, “Revivre” was based on a short story by Kim Hoon’s “Powder to Powder”. It tells the story of a cosmetics marketing executive in the mid-fifties and taking care of his sick wife. The guy becomes conflicted when he creates the feeling for a new addition to his marketing team. The film premiered out of competition at the Venice Film Festival that year and won the Best Film award at the 2015 Bikesang Arts Awards in Korea.

In Korea, I have a record of 13 best film awards, including the Bexang, Blue Dragon Film and Dejong Film Awards. His honorary titles include: the UNESCO Fellini Gold Medal in 2002, in recognition of Im’s tireless efforts to promote the film industry; And the Chevalier de la Ordre de la Legion d’Honneur from the French government in 2007.

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