In new film 'Fighter,' N. Korean defector finds hope and meaning through boxing - Korea Times
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In new film 'Fighter,' N. Korean defector finds hope and meaning through boxing

From left, actors Baek Seo-bin, Lim Seong-mi and Oh Kwang-lok pose during a press conference for
From left, actors Baek Seo-bin, Lim Seong-mi and Oh Kwang-lok pose during a press conference for "Fighter" in Seoul, Thursday. Courtesy of Indiestory

By Kwak Yeon-soo

Director Yun Jero's "Fighter," which has been invited to compete in the Berlin International Film Festival, follows a young North Korean defector's struggle to forge a new life through boxing.

The film revolves around defector Jin-ah (Lim Seong-mi) who starts off working as a cleaner at a boxing gym, and then aspires to become a professional boxer. Despite discrimination and financial struggles, she finds hope through the sport.

"Fighter" was invited to compete in the "Generation 14plus" category at the Berlinale, which is a competition program for international films aimed at young audiences aged 14 years old and above.

The film won the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award, and Lim, the Actress of the Year Award, at the 2020 Busan International Film Festival.

Yun, whose films center on women, refugees and the changing relationship between North and South Korea, said "Fighter" has a more straightforward plot compared to his previous works. The director's short, "Hitchhiker," (2016) was invited to the Directors' Fortnight at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, and his first feature film, "Beautiful Days," (2018) was invited as the opening film of the 23rd Busan International Film Festival

"I've been planning this movie since 2012. Compared with Beautiful Days, which has a complex storyline that goes back and forth in time, Fighter has a simpler plot. I did a lot of close-up shots to capture the facial expressions and eye rolls of the main characters," Yun said during a press conference for the film, Thursday.

"It's a movie that poses many questions about the meaning of family. It tackles heavy subject matter and it's a story about overcoming adversity and discrimination. I also added a layer of drama by including romantic elements," he added.

A scene from
A scene from "Fighter" / Courtesy of Indiestory

The director also revealed why he takes particular interest in stories about North Korean defectors. He previously made a film called, "Looking for North Koreans," in 2012.

"I know a lot of North Korean defectors live on the boundaries as foreigners and face prejudice. No matter how hard the media try to portray them positively, there is an invisible wall," Yun said.

"North Korean defectors and their plight are often ignored by society. I wanted their stories to be heard, and Jin-ah is a character who fights against that invisible wall and social prejudice."

A poster for
A poster for "Fighter" / Courtesy of Indiestory
Lim said she was completely committed to taking on her first lead role in a feature film ― she learned a North Korean accent and trained like a professional boxer.

"I jumped rope and practiced jabbing every day while filming. One thing that I realized through this film is that making a film a reality requires decent team work. Because I played a key part in the movie, I had to take better care of my own health," Lim said.

The actress started her acting career in 2008 and has appeared in several independent films, including, "I Should Have Killed that Bastard," (2018) directed by Lee Ga-hong, and, "Cinema with You," (2017) directed by Jeong Ka-young, Kim Tae-jin and Yoo Ji-young. She also played a minor role in director Bong Joon-ho's "Mother" (2009).

Actors Baek Seo-bin and Oh Kwang-rok star as Jin-ah's trainer/boyfriend and coach, respectively.

"Fighter" will hit local theaters March 18.

Kwak Yeon-soo


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