Mevlut Akkaya the Jury President of NETPAC at Busan International Film Festival interviews the director of the award winning film “The Apartment with Two Women”
M.A: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, why you chose filmmaking and when you decided to become a filmmaker?
K.S: I am Sein Kim. The first time that I got into the film industry was when I got into college. When I saw people around me making films and creating a story that is around us. I was very much motivated by them and my colleagues and peers at the school.
How I got into directing in the first place was during a writing class. I got to write a story about my past, especially on the hardships that I had gone through in the past. I felt that I was able to look at my life from the third perspective which was very impressive to myself. That is how I got into writing, and I felt that directing was the way to go.
M.A: The Apartment with Two Women is your first feature. Before this film, I know you did some shorts. Can you tell us a little bit about your previous projects?
K.S: Yes, I did my first feature as this one, and I had four shorts in the previous years. I had a child as a main character in all four shorts that I had before. I focused mostly on how the loneliness that a child can go through.
M.A: Let's talk about your first feature, The Apartment with Two Women. It is a very powerful story. How did you come up with the idea? How was the filming and the experience?
K.S: Because I focus mainly on the loneliness of a child in previous shorts, in this, my first feature, I tried to get over and go a little bit beyond the boundary from that. So that I focus more on the other feelings of the two characters that I feel I have portrayed in this film. I wish to have a balanced feel of their emotions between them, but also from the loneliness side, they also have that in common from my previous films. I also try to push humor in it, because I didn’t want people to have such tenseness throughout the film. So, this is how I did it.
M.A: A very important theme in The Apartment with Two Women is the loneliness. It is not only with your main characters, but with all other characters as well. Almost everybody is lonely in this film, and everybody is seeking some kind of love. Can you talk about this little?
K.S: Even though it is the story about a mother and a daughter, it is also about a relationship in general that people can relate to. I try to show that building up the loneliness we have inside is not only from other people, but also it can be done within ourselves. I wanted to show the growth of each character as well. I wanted to show that overcoming loneliness can come from outside and inside.
M.A: In The Apartment with Two Women, the relationship with the mother and daughter is very interesting. Every time they go to one place with their fights or disagreements, we then feel that something negative will happen, or that it might turn positive. But when you pick up the story again, almost the same thing continues to happen. Being in this circle, and that we really don't know what will happen with them, My question is that, is it because you don’t want to give a clear answer for their relationship?
K.S: At first, since it's my first feature film, I tried to put everything that I know of into the film that I am creating for the first time. But the more I explored the themes of mothership and relationship, it was difficult to find a clear image on one topic, or any other topics I was thinking about. For example, in the mother and daughter relationship, it is an everlasting exploration that will be in my life. I think my ongoing thoughts while making this film was reflected in the film, I think.
M.A: In relation to this, when you introduce the mother especially, from the beginning, we hate her. We want to hate her, but later we feel for her, and we don’t hate her anymore. We understand the mother like we understand the daughter. It’s “no evil” in this film. What do you think about these two characters?
K.S: When I was coming up with the plot of this feature film, I wanted the story to be in a circle. So, when I showed the mother’s selfishness, after a while I also wanted to show the daughters selfishness. That is how I originally came up with the plot, I wanted to have a cycle in the storyline.
M.A: How did you finance this project? Who supported you? Can you also talk a little bit about the Korean film industry, how much voice female directors have here, how much support do you have?
K.S: So, this film is produced in support of KAFA, Korean Academy of Film Arts, with their financial support, I was able to finish it. I was also mentored by them, and I also had time to have critiques from them before finishing the film. With regards to being a female director, and being supported here, in 2015 when The House of Hummingbirds came out, the director, who was also a female, was very much praised. She led the industry to have more support for the female directors. The fact that many of the new female directors that are emerging, was helping me emotionally, and I gained confidence. Also, a personal experience from a director I am close to, I was able to get mentored by her. I did meditation sessions with her, so I was personally mentored by her as well.
M.A: Can you talk about the writing stage a little bit since you wrote the script yourself? How did you come up with the idea? How much is research, and how much is from your own experience?
K.S: This is not based on my personal experience. But the mother/daughter relationship is everywhere. It is a daily relationship we go through, and there are a few lines I picked up from my mundane life, but it doesn't mean the story and events are in the film are based on my story.
M.A: About directing the actors: The story is a very bold story, but also the acting style is very bold. How was your relationship directing the actors? You are a first-time filmmaker. Can you talk a little bit about directing the actors, and how was their response to your directing?
K.S: When I met with the actors at the reading, I couldn’t really see how it was going to be with them. But, after talking with them numerous times, I tried to show them references about how I feel and what I am trying to show in this film. For example, I recommended some music, some books so that they could understand what I am trying to portray in this film, the feelings especially. The key is to have a lot of conversation throughout, and I tried that as well.
M.A: How much was improvisation, or is it any with the actors?
K.S: Personally, I prefer to stay with the scenario as much as possible. I also try to have as little improvisation as possible. But, after this film, I even feel that maybe next time I don’t have a script to do it, because improvisation worked out in many ways. So, maybe next time, I can improvise on most things.
M.A: What is next? Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming projects?
K.S: So, right before I came to Busan International Film Festival, my film was just finished, so I didn’t have time to get rested. So, after I find my peace again, after a little rest, I will maybe think about a new project.
M.A: I just want to say one thing about your ending: this film has so much going on, so much drama, so many fights, so emotional, but still it has some kind of “little” hope at the end. I just want to ask you, how much hope do you have in this story? Or is there any hope?
K.S: I think my film is nothing about hope. When I portrayed the characters, they fell in love. They get hurt, and they recover. But also, after the film is over, they can still fall in love again, they can get hurt. They can find more hardships in their own lives. What I tried to portray was that they are taking a step forward after this film, and that is how I wanted to close out my film.
M.A: Lastly, do you have any message to NETPAC?
K.S: Thank you! To begin with, when I was filming this film, I thought that the relationship between the mother and daughter is mostly close to Korean culture. Receiving the NETPAC award, I see that film is a universal language for sure, that can bring people’s common understanding on relationships and human relationship. I am very glad to know that you, and other jurors, can relate to the relationship that I portrayed in my film. From this point on, I will make my film thinking that there are no boundaries, to make sure that I can have a story that can relate to many people.
Busan, October 14th 2021 M.A: Mevlut Akkaya K.S: KIM Se-in