A filmmaker who attended the International Film Festival of Kerala in 2013 stepped out for a morning walk in Thiruvananthapuram. He was under the impression no one would recognise him.
He was mobbed, and passengers stretched out through the windows of state buses to wave to him. Some press photographers then identified him as Kim Ki-duk.
When the award-winning filmmaker died of Covid-19 in Latvia last Friday, Kerala had a special reason to mourn.
Perhaps no other foreign filmmaker has enjoyed such a rousing reception in Kerala, says IFFK artistic director Bina Paul, instrumental in introducing Kim’s films to Kerala in 2005. Extraordinary storytelling, rich visualisation and contemporary topics made his films grab the attention of Malayali audiences.
A joke doing the rounds was that Kim had placed a board that his house in South Korea was blessed by Bina as she had made him so popular. He was not too popular in his hometown.
Bina happened to watch Kim’s 2003 movie ‘Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring’ that tells the story of a Buddhist monk at an international film festival. She decided to include his movies in IFFK in 2005. His romantic drama ‘3-Iron’ and ‘Samaritan Girl’ tell the story of two girls’ desire for a European trip. They were screened in Kerala, too.
Film buffs opened their hearts to these films, and at subsequent film festivals, Kim’s films were watched by packed houses, says Kamal, filmmaker and chairman of Kerala State Chalachitra Academy, which organises the annual international film festival.
Bina met Kim at South Korea subsequently, and it resulted in the filmmaker coming to Kerala as a guest in 2013.
He was received at the festival venue with the fanfare usually reserved for local actors. He had become a familiar face by then. In fact, Kim was also bowled over by the reception, and spoke about it on many occasions.
Kim sat along with his fans in theatres to watch his movies. When a fan asked him to sing the Korean folk song ‘Arirang’, also the title of a 2011 movie based on a personal crisis, he didn’t hesitate.
In 2018, when Kim’s film ‘Human, Space, Time and Human’ was introduced at IFFK, it triggered controversy because of its sex and violence scenes. However, the organisers went ahead with the screening.
Malayalam filmmaker Dr Biju, who used to be in touch with Kim till recently, had requested Kim to play a role in one of his films. Kim had said he would consider it once he was done with his ongoing projects.