Citizen of a Kind

International Festival Premiere | In Competition

 

Guest star: PARK Young-ju, director

 

Single mother Deok-hee’s life has fallen apart even before the opening credits, a devastating fire having ruined her laundry shop. After failing to secure a loan to rebuild her business, she is relieved when a representative from the bank calls to tell her about a special, limited-time only loan offer. Rushing to meet the loan’s conditions, which involve transferring the rest of her savings into a new account, she just barely completes the process on her phone before the offer expires. However when she shows up in person at the bank, nobody knows anything about this supposed loan. With rising panic, Deokhee realizes that she is the victim of a voice phishing scam .

Embarrassed, desperate and completely broke, she goes to the police, but they say there is nothing they can do. Her back to the wall, she is just barely managing to survive when her phone rings, and she hears the familiar voice of the man who scammed her. But this time his manner is completely different. Begging for her help, he says that he has been abducted in China by a Korean gang, and forced to make calls for their voice phishing operation. He says he will try to pass along information about the business, and he asks her to report it to the police .

Adapted from a real-life incident that took place in 2016, Citizen of a Kind is in some ways a classic David vs. Goliath story of a resourceful and utterly determined woman who refuses to back down. The very talented actress Ra Mi-ran – who has often been pigeonholed into comedy roles, even though she has tremendous range – communicates Deok-hee’s desperation, but also makes you believe in her strength. As the film progresses, her performance pulls you ever more deeply into the story. At first, she is primarily focused just on getting back the 30 million won (US$25,000) that she lost, but then her increasing determination to get the entire voice phishing operation shut down turns her into a kind of avenging hero .

Meanwhile the film often shifts to the perspective of the caller Jae-min (Gong Myoung), a young man who finds himself trapped in a hellish kind of prison. As he places ever more secret, highly risky calls to Deok-hee to relay information, an unusual sort of bond develops between these two desperate people .

Writer/director Park Young-ju has done a tremendous job in bringing this story to the screen. She has taken liberties with the facts of the incident, adding an entire act in which Deok-hee travels with several close friends to Qingdao, China to personally search for the criminals’ base of operations (this did not happen in real life). Personally I’m quite glad that she added these scenes – this is not a documentary, after all – as these are some of the most vibrant and suspenseful sequences in the movie. The camaraderie and chaotic energy of Deok-hee’s group of friends (played by some outstanding actors such as Yeom Hye-ran and Jang Yoon-ju) bring these scenes to life, and director Park has a real talent for harnessing that energy and using it to drive the story forward .

Most often, films tend to celebrate heroes who are naturally gifted or highly skilled in some way. But there’s something very inspiring about a screen hero like Deok-hee who has been given no advantages in life, and is looked down upon by others, yet who manages to push ahead regardless. For all of the dark places that Citizen of a Kind takes us in the course of its story, it ends up as one of the feel-good stories of the year, for all the right reasons.

Darcy Paquet
Film director: PARK Young-ju
Year: 2024
Running time: 114'
Country: South Korea
24/04 - 9:50 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
24-04-2024 21:50 24-04-2024 23:44Europe/Rome Citizen of a Kind Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

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