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Berlinale Women Directors: Meet Gina Kim

Interviews
by Melissa Silverstein
February 7, 2014 1:30 PM
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Director Gina Kim on the set of "Never Forever"

South Korea-born director Gina Kim is best known for the critically acclaimed drama Never Forever (2007), starring Vera Farmiga as a woman struggling to conceive a child with her infertile husband. Her fifth and latest feature, Final Recipe, is a collaboration with executive producer Michelle Yeoh, who also co-stars as the powerful TV producer of a cooking contest. Final Recipe is the result of Kim and Yeoh's efforts to work together on a pan-Asian production. 

Final Recipe will play at this year's Berlinale.

Please give us your description of the film.

Final Recipe is the coming-of-age story of a young boy who enters a culinary competition to save his family's restaurant. It's a story of forgiveness and love as much as food and cooking.

What drew you to this story? 

Asia is often misrepresented or misunderstood in media. It's an "exotic other" for mainstream culture in the West. As an Asian female filmmaker, I wanted to celebrate Asia through elements other than martial arts or exotic landscapes. I figured food and family are something uniquely Asian, but also something universal that can appeal to a larger audience.

What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

Casting. The film features characters with diverse ethnic backgrounds and nationalities. I wanted to stay truthful to the character descriptions in their accents and demeanors and so ended up inviting actors from all over the world -- Australia, France, Canada, Korea, the U.S., Singapore, Thailand, Japan, etc. 

What advice do you have for other female directors? 

Do not be intimidated by numbers or statistics. Bet against the odds.

What's the biggest misconception about you and your work? 

People love to label woman directors and [pigeonhole] us into a particular genre or theme. But I make experimental films, video art, essay films, documentaries, as well as big feature films. It confuses people (which I don't mind, to be honest). To me, making film is a way to make peace with the environment that I'm in. It's a way to accommodate my desperate need to embrace a world that's beyond my comprehension, and I need all kinds of forms and genres to express my love for it. 

Do you have any thoughts on what are the biggest challenges and/or opportunities for the future with the changing distribution mechanisms for films?

As someone who started her career as a video artist, I'm rather optimistic about it. The Internet allows small films (as well as home videos) to be widely seen. Although video artists in the 1960s saw the potential in the medium, they didn't have a way to make their works available for general audience. Now it is possible. Despite its flaws and negative sides, I mostly see in it new potential for the democratization of the medium.

Name your favorite women directed film and why.

Beau Travail by Claire Denis. She reversed thousands years of art history (male voyeur gazing at female) in one shot.

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