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Hey all, I had the pleasure of speaking with director Kim Tae-gyun, about his latest film, A Barefoot Dream.  The film is South Koreaís official Academy Awards entry.  Director Kim  -- who also helmed 2001 excellent Volcano High -- kindly chatted about this hope-filled movie, based on the inspirational true story of Coach Kim Sin-hwan, a Korean man who assembled a ragtag group of East Timor boys and led them to an international soccer championship.

Dig it!


A Barefoot Dream

Director Kim Tae-gyun


The Lady Miz Diva: A Barefoot Dream is based on a true story.  What inspired you to make the film? 

Kim Tae-gyun:  I saw a television documentary about East Timor and one of the segments introduced this Korean guy who was living there and running a youth soccer team and it made me very curious about what his life would be like.  He made an impression on me.


LMD:  Did Coach Kim Sin-hwan, who the story is about, meet with you or advise you in any way about his life?

KT-g:  I watched the programme in 2005 and met him in East Timor in December 2006 and spoke with him about possibly making a movie about his life.  Thatís also when I met with the children, the soccer kids.  I spent about a week at his house, eating, sleeping, doing everything with him, and he told me his full life story in that week.  Of course, his full life story is not in the movie, but I wanted to understand his character and where he comes from.


LMD:  Has Coach Kim seen the film?

KT-g:  Yes. He was a little shy about it! {Laughs}


LMD:  The children in the film are really wonderful.  How were they chosen?

KT-g:  Initially, we put out a notice for open auditions and we tried to look for these children outside.  But because they {East Timor} really donít have movies or an understanding of being an actor, we didnít get any response.  So we had to come back to his soccer team to find the young children.


LMD:  So those children in the film are actually Coach Kimís students?

KT-g: Yes! {Laughs}


LMD:  How did you train them for the role?

KT-g:  They were already soccer players, so we spent about a month with them as actors.


LMD:  Did your lead actor, Park Hie-soon have to undergo any soccer training or special research to play the character?

KT-g:  He went to East Timor two weeks prior to shooting to spend time with Kim Sin-hwan and try to understand him.


LMD:  A Barefoot Dream is unusual because itís one of the few Korean films that uses locations outside of Korea.  What was it like to film in East Timor and Hiroshima, Japan?

KT-g:  Because East Timor is a relatively new independent country; they really donít have much of an infrastructure for anything, especially when it comes to movies.  The movie industry doesnít exist, they donít have actors.  So, we did seriously consider shooting in Indonesia or the Philippines where they do have better infrastructure.  Also, when it comes to Hiroshima, you could potentially stage it in Korea; it wasnít necessary to go all the way there.  But at the same time, because it is a true story, I thought it would be important to work with the people that were the stars of their own story.  So, the decision was based on that.  Also, if you look at the Japanese youth team, theyíre also the actual team players, they are younger than the players who played the championship, but itís the same coaching staff and everyone that was involved.  So, we wanted to bring the movie as close to the reality.


LMD:  East Timor has had so much turmoil in seeking its independence, I wondered if there were subjects you decided specifically to keep out of the film or that you were very careful about?

KT-g:  Obviously, there are all these subtleties in the political relations with even more powerful countries that facilitated the independence of East Timor, but I wasnít so much interested in that as opposed to how that affected the real people that are living there. There have been a lot of conflicts among the people and there needed to be a conciliation among these people and thatís what I was more interested in.


LMD:  In the film, Kim speaks Korean and everyone else speaks English and Indonesian and a mix of other languages, yet they all understand each other.  Why did you decide to keep that difference in the languages instead of having everyone speak one thing?

KT-g:  I noticed that that was Kim Sin-hwanís actual speaking style; he speaks in a mixture of broken Indonesia, broken English, broken Ö. It was incredible that everybody somehow understood him, thatís why I kept it in the movie.


LMD:  The film had a lot of humour alongside the drama of the impoverished kids and the conflict of the people of East Timor.  There is also the sports action of the soccer matches.  How did you balance those elements?

KT-g:  It just came naturally.  Itís hard to say when and how, but for example, I, myself interacting with these kids had some funny moments because of communication difficulty.  It just came naturally.


LMD:  What was it like to handle a large cast of children?

KT-g:  It was my very first time working with a very large ensemble cast of children.  My previous movie, Crossing {2008}, did give me experience working with a child actor, he was the protagonist.  I like working with child actors because children are naturally very open, especially the ones whoíve never acted, and theyíre very impressionable, so when you direct them, they just absorb it.


LMD:  Youíre best known in America for your film, Volcano High {2001}.  I wondered what you thought when you found out it would be played on MTV, but re-edited and dubbed with hip-hop stars doing the voice acting?

KT-g:  I thought it was a lot of fun that a movie could be transformed in that way, and also both versions were going to be on the DVD together.  Even in Japan, they did an anime version and that was fun, too.


LMD:  Whatís next for you?

KT-g:  My next project is about a father and son who are both boxers and the conflicts between them.  Itís called In-Fighter.


LMD:  What are you hoping that audiences will take away from A Barefoot Dream?

KT-g:  First of all, for any movie, I would like the audience to be moved by the story. Secondly, what I wanted to convey was hope, and to see children nourishing their dreams and trying their best to obtain that dream was important.  But especially for the jaded forty-something, middle aged group Ė people like me! Ė I wanted to give them something hopeful.  My friends around me, my generation, they appear to me to have lost all hope and I made this for them.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

January 12th, 2011





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Exclusive Photo by LMD. Film Stills courtesy of Showbox




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