(SBS Entertainment News reporter Kim Ji-hye)
A few years ago, I had an interview with a filmmaker about the Bechdel Test. He said he was surprised that his film was one of the few films to pass the Bechdel test. I didn't pay particular attention to female characters, so I was rather hesitant about being mentioned as a film that passed the Bechdel test. What the hell is the Bechdel test?
The Bechdel Test is a 1985 film gender equality test created by American female cartoonist Ellison Bechdel that passes if it meets the criteria that there must be at least two women with names, that they will talk to each other, and that the conversation will contain content other than that of a man. Surprisingly, less than 30% of Korean films pass the Bechdel test per year.
Recently, the DGK (Directors Guild of Korea) created the Bechdel Test 4, which adds four requirements to the existing Bechdel dest. The four additional ones are: ▲ There must be at least one woman during the director, production, writer, and filming ▲ The female lead or equal proportion ▲ Female characters that deviate from stereotypes ▲ There will be no hateful or discriminatory views of minorities.
The continued reference to the Bechdel test in the Korean film industry over the past few years can be seen as a reflection on the fact that most Korean films show gender imbalances in their internal and external composition. Applying the filter "test" to films in the cultural and artistic fields is awkward, but in the end, it is an effort to create more diverse and high-quality content.
Small changes are detected in Korean cinema in 7. If most commercial films in the past were centered on male actors and male narratives, this year, films with female actors as protagonists or female narratives are appearing one after another.
Compared to the hilarious situation where you can pass the Bechdel test just by having a "scene where a famous female character talks to a topic other than a man," it is an encouraging change that films with female actors as the protagonists are being made one after another. Moreover, it is worth noting that it is not a low-budget independent film, but a commercial film with a budget of more than 4 billion won.
It may seem silly to distinguish between women and men in the profession of actor and to determine the sex ratio of the protagonist. For that long, the film industry was revolving to be male-dominated. It's more than a matter of ability, it's also a question of opportunity. This year's significant changes and initiatives are likely to be an important turning point.
From 'ghosts' to 'smuggling'... 100 billion masterpieces led by actresses
The gates were opened by the mystery action drama "Ghost". It depicts the activities of the anti-Japanese organization "Black Dan" spies in the Japanese Colonial Period 1930s, and it is a magnum opus with a production cost of 137.100 billion won. The film was starring Lee Ha-byeong and Park So-dam. It was the first time an actress played the lead role in a 200 billion blockbuster movie after Jeon Ji-hyun's "assassination." The film brought two female characters, Park Cha-kyung and Ahn Kang-ok, to the fore to complete the action play.
The Netflix movie "Jung Yi" also starred two actresses. "Jung Yi" is a film about people who want to develop the best combat artificial intelligence (AI) to end the war in the face of decades of civil war when humanity leaves Earth. Kim Hyun-joo played the title role, Jung Yi, and the late Kang so-yeon played Yoon Seo-hyun, the head of the research team working on the development of Combat A.I. This sci-fi film cost 3 billion won to produce.
'Queen of Cannes' Jeon Do-yeon also meets fans for the first time in a long time as a solo star. He teamed up with director Byun Sung-hyun, who made "Bad Guys: World of Bad Guys" and "Kingmaker," to complete the action movie "Gil Bok-soon."
The most interesting aspect of this work, which features the female version of "John Wick" and the Korean version of "Kill Bill," is the use of Jeon Do-yeon. Jeon Do-yeon, who has shown off his outstanding acting skills in the heavy drama genre, plays a killer in action films. The film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, will reach viewers in 31 countries around the world on Netflix on March 180.
Even in the theater district in July ~ August, which is the peak season when the largest audience gathers every year, you can see the masterpieces of actress Two Tops. Directed by Ryu Seung-wan and starring Kim Hye-so and Yeom Jung-ah, "Smuggling" will be released.
"Smuggling" is a maritime crime drama about what happens when two women become embroiled in a smuggling crime that was rampant in the 7s. The production cost was 8.1970 billion won. Director Ryu Seung-wan made an action movie for actress Tu Top more than 175 years after the film "Without Blood or Tears" (2002).
"Out of the bondage of motherhood" ... Changes in narrative and character
The rarity of films in Korean films featuring actresses as protagonists is due to the perception that public expectations for commercial results are low. The logic prevails among investment companies and production companies that the core audience who visit the theater is women in their 20~30s, and that they prefer male actors in their 30~40s. However, this perception has not been proven by data. Since there weren't many attempts in the first place, there were few samples to put for.
This is not just a problem for the Korean film industry. This is also evident in Hollywood, the center of the global film industry. In an interview ahead of the release of the 2018 film "Ocean's 8," Cate Blanchett was asked why she thought a movie with an all-female lead role was coming out now, and she said, "It's because of the lazy, stupid humans who think that female ensembles don't sell."
Blanchett's lazy and stupid ideas are "preconceived notions" in the industry, but the lazy idea and narrative of using actresses in films is definitely something to point out.
In particular, most of the roles given to actresses over 30 in Korean films are "mom." It's not easy for a story that brings maternal love to the fore to be commercial. By and large, it leans on Shinpa. Actresses who are offered films with obvious roles, cliché stories are bound to have a weak motivation. As a result, they turn to a drama version where there is a relatively wide variety of opportunities.
Independent films, relatively free of capital and preconceived notions, have a wide range of creative scopes. Good examples include "Two Women Wearing the Same Underwear" (2022), which depicts the broken relationship and destructive emotions between a mother and daughter, and "Homage" (1960), which draws motifs from the life of Hong Eun-won, a female director active in the 2022s, and depicts the dreams and passions of female filmmakers.
Commercial films that have been released this year or are about to be released show signs of distress. "Ghost" completed the mystery drama by bringing two female spies who overcame the Japanese Colonial Period era to the forefront, and "Jung-i" tried to differentiate itself by strengthening the genre color of science fiction, although it is a work centered on maternal love.
In the case of "Gil Bok-soon", it is an interesting case where the actor's narrative is reflected in the film's narrative. Director Byun Sung-hyun, who directed the film, did not cast Jeon Do-yeon after writing the screenplay, but conceived the story after talking to Jeon Do-yeon.
I was inspired by the story of "Mama Jeon Do-yeon," who was overshadowed by the qualifiers of "Queen of Cannes" and "Best Actor of Chungmuro," but this is not a film that focuses on the feeling of "motherhood." It is a work that stands out for its charm as an action genre, and Jeon Do-yeon plays an active role in the center of it.
"Smuggling" also vividly portrays the 1970s when smuggling was rampant, and the sea-based haenyeo appears as the key characters who hold the key to solving the case. Director Ryu Seung-wan, who has excelled in the action genre, is expected to create synergy between Yeon-woo and the leading actresses named Kim Hye-so and Yeom Jung-ah.