WORLD FESTIVAL PREMIERE
South Korea, 2023, 118’, Korean
Directed by: Chang Hang-jun
Screenplay: Kwon Sung-hui, Kim Eun-hee
Photography (color): Mun Yong-gun, Kang Ju-sin
Editing: Heo Seon-mi, Ji Hyeong-jin
Art Direction: Lee Mi-kyung
Music: Kang Ne-ne
Producers: Jang Won-seok, Kim Young-hun, Ha Jung-woo, Park Yun-ho
Cast: Ahn Jae-hong (Coach Yang-hyun), Lee Shin-young (Ki-bum), Jeong Jin-woon (Gyu-hyuk), Kim Taek (Sun-gyu), Jeong Geon-ju (Gang-ho) Kim Min (Jae-yoon), Ahn Ji-ho (Jin-wook)
Date of First Release in Territory: April 5th, 2023
South Korea is a country where most high school students cram for exams, rather than take part in athletics. But that doesn’t mean students and teachers alike don’t get excited about high school sports. Busan Jungang High School is a school whose basketball team has seen better days. Sure enough, the principal would prefer to disband the team entirely, but he is persuaded to let Yang-hyun, a school alumni and former player, try to field a competitive team as coach. Yang-hyun’s first task is to find enough players to fill out all five positions. With the best local talent already recruited to play for schools in other parts of the country, he has no choice but to get creative.
Rebound is based on a real-life story from 2010, even though this unlikely sequence of events feels so quintessentially cinematic. Busan Jungang High School is a classic underdog, obviously no match for well-funded teams with a long tradition of winning like Yongsan High from Seoul. But through the resourcefulness, passion, commitment and generosity of a remarkable coach, the team slowly starts to realize its potential.
What’s surprising about Rebound is not so much where the plot takes you, but how much you enjoy getting there. The film is effortlessly charismatic and engaging, never straining to win the audience’s affection, but succeeding completely in doing so. It’s a prime example of how much a well-written screenplay can enrich even the most familiar of stories.
Sure enough, the film has some serious screenwriting talent behind it, being co-written by Kwon Sung-hui (The Spy Gone North, As One) and star TV writer Kim Eun-hee (Netflix’s Kingdom). Kim, who also happens to be married to director Chang Hang-jun, made her return to feature film screenwriting for the first time in many years, and the film clearly benefitted from her expertise. Director Chang, for his part, elicited great performances from this young cast, highlighting and framing each players’ various personalities and struggles without ever tipping over into melodrama. His strong sense of timing also helps the film’s humor fully express itself.
Lastly, special mention must also be made of the actor Ahn Jae-hong, who carries himself in an unassuming way but is one of the most likeable, charismatic stars working in the industry. Yang-hyun can be seen as simply a hard-working high school coach, but in many ways he is also a model of what leadership is supposed to look like. Ahn’s performance, and his interactions with the rest of the cast proves to be one of the film’s highlights.
Chang Hang-jun made his directorial debut with the 2002 comedy Break Out (a.k.a. Spark the Lighter), and followed that up quickly with a second comedy Spring Breeze (2003). Close to a decade and a half would pass before his third directorial feature Forgotten (2017), but in that time Jang was far from idle. He directed and/or wrote the screenplay for numerous TV movies and dramas, did cameos and supporting actor roles, and established himself as a well-known TV personality. His fourth feature, the thriller Open the Door, screened at the 2022 Busan International Film Festival, though it would be his fifth feature Rebound that opened in theaters first.
2002 – Break Out
2003 – Spring Breeze
2017 – Forgotten
2022 – Open the Door
2023 – Rebound