Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Wednesday, Apirl 26, time 3.00 PM


By date


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New Trial

In recent years there have been a number of successful Korean films based on real-life court cases, such as Chung Ji-young’s Unbowed, in which a professor threatens violence against a judge he believes is biased; and FEFF Audience Award winner Silenced, about victims of sexual abuse at a school for the deaf. New Trial too is based on a real life court case that has received considerable attention in the Korean press, particularly after being highlighted in a popular investigative TV program. But what makes this a particularly unusual situation is that as the film was being shot, the trial was still ongoing.

The “Yakchon Intersection murder case” took place in August 2000 in the southwestern city of Iksan. A 15-year-old high school student working as a delivery boy came across a taxi driver who had suffered repeated stab wounds. After testifying to the police, the boy was arrested as a suspect, and ultimately confessed to the crime. He then served 10 years in prison before being released in 2010. However the story did not end there, with the government demanding that the boy’s family pay the equivalent of $90,000 in indemnities. Desperately poor, and outraged at the way he had been treated, the defendant then filed for a retrial, asserting that he was innocent and his original confession had been forcibly extracted by the police with threats and violence.
New Trial is not meant to be a documentary retelling of what actually happened. It’s a character-based drama that alters some of the specifics, but it stays true to the core issues of the case. And the main character is not the defendant – named Hyun-woo in the film and played by the popular actor Kang Ha-neul (Dongju: The Portrait of a Poet) – but the lawyer who represents him. As the film opens, Joon-young (film/TV star Jung Woo) has hit rock bottom, losing a major class-action lawsuit. With his family life in crisis and his public reputation shattered, he begs a friend to help him find work. But it’s clear that Joon-young has an attitude problem. It’s with great reluctance that he agrees to take on some pro bono work, through which he meets Hyun-woo’s mother and begins to hear about their situation.

This is not the first time that director Kim Tae-yun has adapted a controversial real-life case into a commercial film. Another Family (2013) is a thinly-veiled reference to a notorious Samsung Electronics semiconductor plant where workers contracted a wide range of life-threatening illnesses including leukemia. It is based on the father of one of the victims, who in the course of working through his grief and demanding that the company accept responsibility, gradually transforms into an activist. It was a daring film to make, given Samsung’s outsized influence in South Korean society, but he managed to strike an effective balance between social criticism and entertainment.
New Trial too is, at its heart, the story of one man’s inner transformation. And as with his previous film, Kim accomplishes two things at once. He presents a dramatic story that pulls the viewer in and makes us care about the fate of its characters, but he also embeds the work with a streak of idealism. Although not Ken Loach by any means, this film nonetheless has a moral compass that deepens its resonance.
Because this project was initiated before the retrial even opened in court, the film lacks the sort of grand courtroom finale that many viewers might be expecting. But as the story of two men who find and ultimately save each other, it’s a narrative arc with a satisfying conclusion. Audiences seemed to agree: New Trial ranks as the film of 2017 to significantly exceed its box office expectations, notching up a strong 2.4 million admissions.
Darcy Paquet
Film director: 
Kim Tae-yun
Running time: 




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