BUSAN--Big-name film director Lee Joon-ik’s debut drama “Yonder” premiered Thursday night at Sohyang Theater in Busan during the 27th Busan International Film Festival.
After the first three episodes of the six-part series were screened, Lee subtly expressed his disappointment about the theater’s facilities during a guest visitor event.
“We are not at a movie theater. This is actually a musical performance stage. So while I was watching the film the sound did not come out properly when it was supposed to and I could not hear some of the lines,” Lee said. “But I am grateful anyways to be invited to BIFF. I did not expect to be invited with an OTT (streaming) series. My drama is being screened on the big screen only twice during this festival so I think I will remember this forever.”
Jointly produced by two streaming platforms -- Tving and Paramount+ -- “Yonder” presents the story of a man (Shin Ha-kyun) who receives a mysterious email from his dead wife (Han Ji-mi), who uploaded her memories to a platform when she was alive. The wife invites him to a place in her memory.
“I decided to create a film based on the original novel ‘Good-Bye Yonder’ (by Kim Jang-hwan) seven to eight years ago. I tried writing a script at the time but it did not work out. I think I was not ready to make a science fiction film back then,” the director said.
After giving up writing the script for “Yonder,” he went on to create several other films including “The Throne” and “The Book of Fish.”
“After ‘The Book of Fish’ I started writing the script for ‘Yonder’ again and tried making the film but it failed again due to the pandemic,” Lee said.
He explained that after the second failure, he found an opportunity to turn the work into a drama series and started working on the script again.
The new drama is different from other science fiction dramas as it is relatable to Korean audiences, the director said.
“I don’t like how some SF works are like an imitation of western sci-fi movies and novels. Also, the original novel was set in the 2040s but I set the film in 2032 because it needed unnecessary vehicles like flying cars which can hinder audiences from seeing the human connection that I wanted to show in the drama,” the director said. “So it is a sci-fi drama but more importantly, it is a drama that opens up a conversation about our near future and the value of life.”
Actors Shin and Han were drawn to this drama series because of the topic, according to the two actors.
Shin said it was interesting to read a story about Korea in the future where euthanasia is legal.
“The topic was relatable and also it showed a world that we have never lived in before. I was very curious how he (director Lee) would direct it and turn the book into a drama,” Shin said.
“As I get older, I have to deal with acquaintances’ death more frequently. So I have been thinking more about ‘what is a good death.’ I think I was drawn to the script because of these thoughts,” Han said.
Han also said it was her dream to work with director Lee because she had heard so many compliments about him from fellow actors.
“I understand why they all complimented him so much,” Han said.
She emphasized multiple times that the director is especially good at making everyone comfortable on the set.
“There was a staffer who said when she is frustrated with work she talks with the director for 20 to 30 minutes and then everything is OK,” Han said. “I usually do not pay compliments like this but this is really true.”
As compliments about the director continued, Lee interrupted and said, “Too much is as poisonous as too little. I think I am being poisoned,” at which people in the audience burst into laughter.
The highly anticipated drama series “Yonder” will be released on the streaming platform Tving on Oct. 14.
The 27th BIFF expanded its On Screen program to screen nine streaming series, including “Yonder.” The new program was added last year to reflect the influence of streaming content in the global market.