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Taking The Hallow to Busan

  • Corin Hardy

Corin Hardy in Busan

October 2015

As part of our membership of European Film Promotion (EFP) we help selected directors present heir films at South Korea's Busan International Film Festival. This year's UK contingent included Joe Stephenson (Chicken) and Corin Hardy (The Hallow). Here, Corin Hardy shares his diary from an exciting visit.

October 3-4, 2015
I’m on a plane flying to South Korea. Yesterday it was my best friend's wedding and I was the best man. Both the wedding & the trip to Korea were things I was going to have to miss if I was shooting the remake of The Crow, which was the plan only a couple of months ago [editor's note: Corin had been set to shoot the remake this autumn but it will now shoot in 2016].

Needless to say, getting up early this morning and boarding the airplane to Korea wasn’t easy.

I watched Amy on the in flight entertainment and it had me bawling in tears, but trying to hide them from the other passengers. Such a terribly sad movie.

October 4, 2015
I fly forward in time, jumping 9 hours ahead and passing through a night - the 3rd of October becomes the 4th. Today I spent most of the day struggling with jetlag, trying to stay awake after only two hours of sleep on the plane London > Toyko and then Tokyo > Busan.

On arrival I also have to catch a shuttle bus and travel a further hour on to my hotel. The view of Busan's cityscape emerging like jagged teeth amid the hills is a spectacular one to behold.

On arrival I disembark and find my way through bustling streets beside a beach, to the Seacloud Hotel and my room on the 23rd floor. I rapidly settle in and then hurry back out to the European Film Promotion (EFP) cocktail presentation that I’ve been invited to. But because I'm unsure of where everything is, it takes me a further hour to find my way there, via another shuttle bus to the impressive ‘BIFF Hall’ to pick up accreditation and then finding the actual entrance to the enormous shopping complex called SHINSEGAE Centum City.

As a result, I sadly arrive late and the second presentation of European filmmakers has already happened. I meet Han-Song Hiltman and Andreas Struck from EFP. Despite missing out on the intro, I hang out and mingle, chatting with the other filmmakers and sampling some tasty Korean food. I am finally here!

I accompany Han-Song into a screening of Paddy Breathnach’s Viva, which is set in Cuba and deals with a young man dreaming of becoming a performing transvestite, it’s nicely acted and great looking, but sadly sitting in the dark is all too much for my exhausted peepers and I frequently struggle to keep dreamland at bay.

Paddy gives an informative Q&A and then we head to the Central Hotel to the Chinese Party and discover an enormous room packed with filmmakers and food, celebrating the Chinese films in the festival, including Christopher Doyle’s Chinese Trilogy. Then the six hours of sleep in the past 40 hours catch up with me and I topple into my hotel bed.

October 5, 2015
The night is filled with amazing hallucinatory dreams and when I wake I have an entire new film concept which I spend a couple of hours writing up. Thanks for that, Busan!

I head to the Film Fest desk in the hotel and peruse films showing at the festival - I made a vow when visiting festivals to try to see at least a couple of films, as many as I can, but the programme is so chocca, I have no idea what to watch.

I remember meeting some filmmakers and actors the previous night at the EFP drinks. I met an actor called Goran Markovic and spot that his film The High Sun, which won a prize in Cannes, is showing this afternoon. I nab a ticket and take a stroll around the streets, checking out the platform on the beach that the other EFP’ers did their presentation on before I arrived. They said it was like being in the Beatles! Everyone screaming & getting autographs!

I catch the shuttle bus (Note: all shuttles are decorated with Korean Star Wars logos, identifiable in any language, the power of a brand…) to the Blaxco building where there’s another EFP drinks reception that I’m invited to, but it's housed in the biggest complex of buildings and I get lost amid the sheer scale and it takes me forever to finally find it lurking in the heart of an exhibition hall.

Eventually I arrive, late again, to the drinks that have just finished - I must look like the most incapable guest of all time. Luckily I spot Paddy Breathnach and enjoy chatting to him about his film and movie making. He also gives me advice on how to navigate the Korean underground system, which is actually much easier than it first appears. I leave him for the SHINSEGAE shopping complex to the cinema and wander through the never ending levels of giant shopping malls, sampling some deep fried Korean food & a spicy wrap, delicious. I’ve heard I may have to eat live squid on this trip. The scene in Old Boy haunts me.

In the Centum Cinema I finally take my seat and enjoy my second movie. The High Sun was impacting, dreamlike and real;  a film about the Croatia/Serbia war taking place in three times - 1991, 2001 and 2011 - with the same core actors playing different characters who occupy the same spaces but are unrelated.

The effect of having the actors play three versions of themselves was very subtly effective and evocative of being slightly removed from reality, a strange sense of de ja vu, an echo of the life once lived.

Goran was excellent! In the Q&A afterwards, he was very humble and stated "we’re on a mission of acceptance and love, since ether war rises again and the young hate and don’t know why. Hate is not acceptable and that’s why I’m here."

After the film we file out into an underground carpark when Goran signs autographs and then we travel together to the German drinks party. I finally felt awake and was looking forward to my first beer! Alas, on arrival my curse is still apparent, Andreas tells us, the bar just closed. Party over.

We team with Paddy and take a night walk along the beautiful beach to a bar called Billy Jean where they mainly play Michael Jackson songs. Finally a cold beer with some of the European film gang, many of whom are departing the next day. I wander back to my hotel, buy some Korena noodles and eat them in bed. Tomorrow my film The Hallow gets its Korean premiere.

October 6, 2015
Today was the day my film The Hallow premiered in Korea. When I got up, I took the Star Wars Shuttle Bus along and caught M Night Shyalaman's The Visit at the Lotte cinema in Shinsegae. It was more fun than I had expected and good to see another horror film.

After the screening I braved the subway and found my way back to the Hyundai stop and bought some Korean BBQ & sushi that I took to the beach, where I sat and overlooked the still ocean, as the sun went down. It was truly dream-like & very calming.

A strange feeling crept over me - sitting alone in this truly foreign city eating food on a beach before attending the premiere of my independently financed, debut horror movie, how lucky I was, how did I get here???!

Thanks to everyone who got me this far. I returned to my hotel, got on my premiere glad-rags and caught the cab back to the cinema in time for my screening. It was a completely silent journey.

Waiting in the greenroom before my film plays, I think about what I want to say to introduce the film and I decide that I would like to mention my favourite Korean film directors who’s films I admire, Park Chan-Wook (Vengeance Trilogy, Stoker); Bong Joon-ho (Memories of Murder, The Host); Kim Jee-woon (Bittersweet Life, Tale Of Two Sisters, I Saw The Devil); and Na Hong-jin (The Chaser, The Yellow Sea).

Then I panic as I get their names mixed up and so I write them on the inside of each of my fingers on my left hand, that way I will be able to check.

The cinema was large, perhaps two-thirds full by the time the movie began. The film played well - the screen is gargantuan. But the low light levels in the projection sometimes make it difficult to know what is happening in a film like this that relies on a very specific light/dark balance.

Afterwards, I am introduced for the Q&A and reference the names on my fingers, with the help of a translator. At first the Korean audience are hesitant but quickly the questions start flowing and they’re good ones too.

We talk until we run out of time, I take pictures of the Korean crowd and then get pursued by them out in the foyer where I continue to sign autographs and draw pictures of various Hallow monsters on their tickets to their delight. I show them some of my sketch-books with designs for The Hallow and concept artwork and a couple of Korean girls even cry! Now were’ talking. Beatles eat your heart out.

I took a cab to the directors party afterwards and was pleased to find food and booze and a chance to mingle with my peers before a long walk back along the beach. I purchased a single firework and lit it on the sand, in honour of my time here in Busan. It's my last proper day tomorrow, but it’s already 5.30am when I go to bed…Yikes.

October 7, 2015
I finally felt like I knew my way around as I caught the X-Wing in to the Cinema Centre, driving for the first time, on time! The central cinema is a sight to behold, with crazy over-the-top architecture and a rainbow computer screen ceiling like something out of Las Vegas, an enormous red carpeted outdoor area and screen. Impressive and nuts.

There are escalators all over the place, they only start working when you advance on them and then they whisk you up or down. I had pre-booked a ticket for a French film called The Crew. It’s tricky booking tickets for films based on just a 50-word synopsis, but exciting.

This one mentions a 'botched heist’ so I’m in. For the most part of Julien Leclercq’s gritty action thriller I’m pretty gripped, emotionally and thrillingly. It’s very much a French Heat. A stand-out scene involved the protagonist, an expert bank robber who gets double crossed and ends up in a violent mess, rushing to save his mother and hauling her throughout a ferocious gun battle. It was something I hadn’t seen before and it was edge of seat stuff. I became hostage myself to a 45 min Q&A, in French, translated into Korean afterwards, drawing upon my limited GCSE French skills to ponder over what they may or may not have been asking.

Shuttle > Seacloud > Gladrags > Night Out…

This was with Dosin Pak, who programmes Busan's world cinema selections and had seen The Hallow in Berlin. I was accompanied by a group of 12 or so filmmakers, not the EFP bunch but mainly Canadians and a couple of Brits (Joe Stephenson of Chicken) and we walked along the beach path to an old Korean restaurant with an incredible view looking back on the city skyline at night, lit up like Nolan’s Gotham.

I was excited to finally have some authentic Korean food, and wondered if the time had come for live octopus… We sat around the table, on the floor in flat seats and were brought a wonderful spread of Korean food: kimchi, raw fish, sushi, snails, tempura.

Dosin was great company and everyone chatted in this friendly atmosphere! It felt like the first proper night where I fitted in, (and wasn’t late!). Trevor Groth from Sundance was there too, so it was nice to re-acquaint with the guy who started my festival run. We drank beer with Soju shots and then around 10pm made our way to the Wide Angle party which was by far the best party yet, and such a shame it was my last night with an early start the following day. Situated outside on a balcony with a clear view of the bridge and water, I wanted to stay longer and hang out with my new friends, but I had to leave at midnight, to have time to pack my bags before departure.

I now sit, two hours of sleep later, on the Korean airline flight back to Seoul before switching planes to Heathrow. The Hallow screens again tonight in Busan and I wish I was able to stay another day or two as I feel I’ve only just finally hit the Busan groove. Next festival stop is Sitges, Barcelona then Rammiskrik, Norway, Los Angeles and New York for Halloween.

October 8, 2015
I receive an email from a couple of people I met at the party who went to see The Hallow at its next midnight screening who reported it was in a huge 3 story cinema and it was jam packed without an empty seat in the house & that it went down well with the audience. Nice to know.

I want to thanks to the British Council for helping on this special trip, to EFP for hosting my stay and to Doisin for having me in Busan.

Next time I promise to arrive on time, and to stay longer!

Corin is now nominated for Best Debut Director at the British Independent Film Awards.

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