Sassy and streetwise, this 25-year-old knows what she wants in a film.
Film student and director Yang Hyo-joo, whose short film “Broken Night” has been officially invited to Berlin International Film Festival’s (Berlinale) competition section this year, could not hide her obvious talent and artistic nature.
“Broken Night” is the third film Yang has ever made. And it was initially a graduation project for Yang’s final year at Korea National University of Arts.
The movie last year received the Sunje Fund Award for the best short film at the Pusan International Film Festival.
“I was on my way home when someone called me not to leave Busan,” said Yang, dressed in sleek black, matching her long dark hair.
“That’s how I found out I won the award. I did not expect to win at all.”
Though she has now participated in two international film festivals at such a young age, Yang said she had never thought of making movies until her first year of university, where she was majoring in political science and international studies.
“I’ve always been a goody-goody who would always obey what my parents say as a child and a teenager,” Yang said. “My dream back in high school was just to get into any university of any program. Then I got into this phase of major life crisis in my first year (of university). I hated the school and I couldn’t stand the classes.”
Filmmaker Yang Hyo-joo is to make her first trip to Berlinale. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
So instead of attending her classes ― Yang refused to name the university ― she would watch movies, hit theater venues and simply stroll down the streets of Seoul with her “artsy” friends whom she had met online.
“It was so much fun that I thought I was losing my mind,” Yang said.
It was when she saw late renowned Korean director Kim Ki-young’s masterpiece “The Housemaid” (1960) that Yang’s life changed forever.
“I thought I should make movies,” she said. “I’d always liked photography and arts. I thought filmmaking would allow me to do both.”
Her decision made, Yang immediately withdrew from the school and started preparing for the admission test for Korea National University of Arts’ filmmaking program ― all in secret from her parents.
“I did not even know my school existed up until I applied to the program,” Yang said.
“It was my friends who informed me about it. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking at the time ― what would I have done if I hadn’t been admitted? I still have no idea.”
Though Yang was worried about her lack of real-life filmmaking experience compared to her skilled classmates, she soon started really enjoying the program.
The filming experience included not being able to go to bathroom for 24 hours and eating frozen “Jajangmyeon,” Korean black bean noodles, at five in the morning.
“The program just suited me,” Yang said. “I liked getting physical and getting out there.”
Yang’s short film, “Broken Night,” tells a story of a middle-aged criminal who constantly fakes car accidents to earn insurance money. He one day runs into a homeless teen couple who fake motorcycle accidents to do the same.
Conflict arises as the teenage couple robs the man after creating an accident and run away. The man, who chases them down after being attacked, finds out the girl has been severely wounded.
“I make films because I’ve been always curious about what human beings do when they are put into extreme situations,” Yang said.
“Those ‘extreme situations’ would include deaths, break-ups and such cases of insurance crime. I think we can’t really judge someone who faces an ethical dilemma when his own life is at risk.”
Such cinematic curiosity of Yang is well-reflected in her two previous films, “Last Scene” (2006) and “Jouissance” (2008).
Both of the movies deal with couples in love ― the couple in "Last Scene" goes through a breakup, in "Jouissance" a couple runs into a fatal car accident.
Yang said she would like to make movies of all kinds in future, including horror, comedy, thriller, and costume drama.
“My dream is rather simple,” Yang said. “I’d like to make money with what I love to do. I hope to make at least one successful feature-length commercial film. That’s my short-term goal for now.”
After four years of rigorous learning, Yang will miss her graduation ceremony for Berlinale.
“I don’t really care about winning,” Yang said. “I just want to be there and enjoy every moment.”
Yang leaves for Berlin on Feb. 10.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)