A hero can be anyone, even a cyclist, the upcoming movie "Race to Freedom―Um Bok-dong," says.
The film, based on a true story, is about cycling champion Um Bok-dong (1892-1951), who rose to stardom after clinching many cycling titles during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea.
K-pop sensation Jung Ji-hoon, better known by his stage name Rain, stars as the hero cyclist.
Back in his heyday, Um's victories brought a long-lasting impact to his countrymen who were oppressed by the Japanese, director and screenwriter Kim Yu-sung said during a press conference held at CGV Yongsan in central Seoul, Tuesday.
"I have always been interested in history. I thought I was knowledgeable about history but realized I was not while doing research about him. My understanding of history was sheer. My grandmother used to tell me stories about Um Bok-dong which inspired me to write the screenplay about the cyclist," Kim said.
"Some media headlines mentioned Um as an inspiring figure for igniting an unconquerable spirit among Koreans with his championship wins. But aside from Um's impressive competition record, the movie is fiction."
The forthcoming movie came under fire even before it hit local theaters for portraying Um as a hero. Such criticism came because of Um's unheroic life in his sunset years, during which he was in and out of prison for bicycle theft and fraudulent deals.
When asked if he could compare himself to Um Bok-dong, Jung was humble and said he is such a towering figure, he cannot possibly be comparable to him.
The singer-turned-actor said he just wanted to highlight Um's unrecognized accomplishments.
"To be honest, I didn't know him before the director offered me a starring role in this film. I thought it was a fictional story. But as I was reading the script, I felt for him and wanted to let the public know what he had done," Jung said.
"He was a great man who aspired to inspire many through cycling. I just studied a lot about him and his mindset, how he achieved such great accomplishments, with his pure ambition towards bicycles. I tried to understand him and how he felt for my performance and I hope audiences can see the efforts in my acting."
Aside from the lead role of Um, there is a fictional character Kim Hyong-shin who shone as a heroic freedom fighter in the film, played by Kang So-ra.
Kim is portrayed as a brave woman who joins the independence movement and plays a key role in the movie.
As the movie is set to premiere at the end of February, days before the centennial anniversary of the March 1 Independence Movement, some voiced concern over them using history for marketing. But the cast said they were more than serious on portraying their characters.
"Though it's a made-up character, I didn't set any role model while shooting. I just tried to put myself in Kim Hyung-shin's shoes and kept reminding myself of what it would be like if I were her, while I was acting. In my perspective, as freedom fighters are not trained professionals, they must had been clumsy. I just tried my best to show that," Kang said. "It is hard to understand 100 percent of that era, since I'm living in the present. But I was very serious on pulling out the story.
I hope audiences do not consider the movie as patriotic marketing. I hope they see it as what if I lived at that time."
"The film's basic idea lies with the notion that anyone can be a hero. Um Bok-dong can be anyone who's living in the moment, focusing on their daily tasks, trying their best to do the best. Their lives can inspire people," said Tiger Lee, also known as Lee Bum-soo, who acted in the film as well as helped with directing duties.
The film production began in 2003, when director Kim started writing the script. There have been ups and downs, he said, adding he's looking forward to an open discussion based on the film.The film opens on Feb. 27.
This film was a long time coming. They were filming this back when Lee Beomsoo was on TRoS with Soeul and Daeul.
source: The Korea Times