Current user rating: 92/100 (295 votes)
- Movie: Barbie
- Revised romanization: Babi
- Hangul: 바비
- Director: Lee Sang-Woo
- Writer: Lee Sang-Woo
- Producer: Nam Yong-Kuk, Heo Sang-Ryeo, Kim Tae-Young, Cha Seung-Jae
- Cinematographer: Kim Min-Soo, Park Kyoung-Gyoon, Kim Dong-Sii, Hong Ji-Sung
- World Premiere: October 7, 2011 (Busan International Film Festival)
- Release Date: October 25, 2012
- Runtime: 97 min.
- Genre: Drama / Indie / Sisters / Adoption
- Distributor: Mirovision
- Language: Korean
- Country: South Korea
Soon-Young (Kim Sae-Ron) is a young girl who is the head of her family. She lives with her mentally handicapped father (Jo Yong-Suk), unscrupulous uncle (Lee Chun-Hee) and younger sister Soon-Ja (Kim Ah-Ron) who is always ill. Younger sister Soon-Ja plays with her Barbie doll everyday and dreams of one day living in the United States.
Meanwhile, Mang-Taek comes into contact with an American man interested in adopting a healthy Korean girl. Mang-Taek arranges a deal for the American man to adopt Soon-Young. When her younger sister Soon-Ja hears of the adoption, she becomes jealous and asks to take the place of her older sister.
When the American man and his young daughter arrive to take Soon-Young, the uncle, Soong-Young and Soon-Ja must decide who is to go. The American father has an ulterior motive for the adoption ...
- Filming took place from May 21 to June 6, 2011 in Pohang, South Korea.
- Movie will screen at the 2011 Busan International Film Festival and has been submitted to the 2011 Venice Film Festival.
Additional Cast Members:
Q&A (Busan International Film Festival)
Q&A for "Barbie" took place after a screening of the movie at the 2011 Busan International Film Festival on October 7, 2011. Appearing as speakers are actor Jo Yong-Suk, actress Cat Tebow, actress Kim A-Ron, actress Kim Sae-Ron, actor Lee Chun-Hee & director Lee Sang-Woo. AsianWiki editor Ki Mun was there and transcribed/translated the session.
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - Nice to meet you. I am Lee Sang-Woo, the director of "Barbie." My previous films were "Mother is a Whore" and "Father is a Dog." Titles which got some people's attention.
- Lee Chun-Hee (actor) - I am Lee Chun-Hee who played the uncle, Lee Mang-Taek, in "Barbie." Thank you for coming to see this movie at such an early hour. I hope you enjoy the Busan International Film Festival.
- Kim Sae-Ron (actress) - Hello, I am Kim Sae-Ron who played Soon-Young. Thank you for watching the movie. Thank you.
- Kim A-Ron (actress) - Hi. I am Kim A-Ron who played Soon-Ja. Thank you for watching the movie.
- Cat Tebow (actress) - (spoken in Korean) Hello my name is Cat Tebow.
- Jo Yong-Suk (actor) - I am Jo Yong-Suk who played the father Mang-Woo.
- Audience Question - Question is for Jo Yong-Suk. In the movie, you were hit a lot by Lee Chun-Hee and it looked real. Were you really hit?
- Jo Yong-Seok - It was bearable. Some scenes were real, some not.
- Audience Question - Question is for the director Lee Sang-Woo. Your prior works contain unusual content, including the movie "Barbie." I would like to know what attracted the actors and actresses to this movie?
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - My previous film is "Mother is a Whore," so I didn't believe I could get Kim Sae-Ron and Kim Ah-Ron to act for my movie "Barbie." When I met their mom, I asked her whether she knew about my previous film "Mother is a Whore." She said she did know of that film and she readily let her daughters Kim Sae-Ron and Kim A-Ron act in "Barbie." I would like to thank her.
- Lee Chun-Hee (actor) - After receiving the script for "Barbie," I watched "Mother is a Whore." The director Lee Sang-Woo also acted as the main character in "Mother is a Whore." To be honest, I didn't want to meet him, because his character was so disturbing. But, when I did meet him he turned out to be a very nice guy. After reading the script for "Barbie" I wanted to play the character. I wondered about Kim Sae-Ron.
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - In the middle of "Barbie" I appear as a drunk and a pervert. When we shot that scene Kim Sae-Ron cried a lot. The shooting was interrupted. Sorry to Kim Sae-Ron.
- Moderator - Question for the director. As you know, you made two movies titled around family members and having disturbing content. I know you are now making your third film for that. "Mother is a Whore," "Father is a Dog," and now "I am Trash." The titles are shocking and the movies seem to have deeper meanings. Your prior films were made on extremely low budgets. "Barbie" is made with the biggest budget so far for you, almost like a blockbuster film when compared with the budgets of your prior films. I would like to hear the differences between "Barbie" and those other films?
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - I have made a lot of movies. I usually take a break after I make a film, because I have to work a normal job to make money for my next film. For the first time I got investments to make "Barbie." I realized how difficult it is to receive funding from others. So far, I have made 10 films. I spent the funding well for "Barbie." The budge was still less than 1/30th of a commercial film released nowadays. We couldn't even take a day off. Because of the low budget, we shot straight for 16 days. On the 9th day, 3 staff members went to the hospital and I collapsed in a car and was taken to the emergency room. That was the first time I passed out while making a movie. Also, the actors and actresses worked without a break. I thank them and the staff members. The actors and actresses were not paid for their work. Also, I would like to thank those who invested in the film. I am so happy to make "Barbie" and not having to work a regular job for 7-8 months to fund my film. I worked very hard in return.
- Audience Question - In the movie, Mang-Taek, played by Lee Chun-Hee, sends his niece away for money. How do you view your character?
- Lee Chun-Hee (actor) - While reading the script I did wonder who was worse - Mang-Taek or Steve? I thought both were killers even though they did not actually kill in the film. I felt uncomfortable. Mang-Taek sends his niece off to America without knowing why. I tried to find a reason why Mang-Taek had no choice, but to do that. I only focused on that while filming. Mang-Taek sends his niece away to get a better life for his brother, himself and their family. While watching the movie I did feel bad.
- Audience Question - In the movie a Barbie doll appears prominently throughout the movie. The title is also "Barbie." What is the significance of that?
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - "Barbie" is based on a real life case from the 1990's. In the 1990's a famous Korean director attempted to make a movie from this material, but the government stopped him. They were afraid it might cause friction with the American government. 22 years later I made "Barbie" from this material. I lived in America for 9 years. I think I know America more than most people here. This movie is not Anti-American. To be honest with you as I get older I try to think about a wiser way to live. I'm not the type of person who speaks logically. I thought about what would be the wise way for Mang-Taek, Mang-Woo, Soon-Young and Soon-Ja to live. As we live, that is very important to live in a wise manner. Kids play with Barbie dolls a lot. I think a Barbie doll is a symbol of America. Some people even thought I played with Barbie dolls, but I don't. An American kid in the movie makes herself look like a Barbie doll. At last, she thinks she is no longer a Barbie and throws her doll away. She knows they have to take back a girl to America. She isn't a pure Barbie anymore and she doesn't need to play with Barbie anymore. I made the title from that thought.
- Audience Question - Question is for Kim Sae-Ron. I watched a "A Brand New Life" which you were in. The story there involved adoption and "Barbie" also is related to adoption. I wonder why you chose those two roles? Question for the director. I watched your movie "Father is a Dog." That movie has a major character who is disabled and this movie has the father who is disabled. I would like to know why?
- Kim Sae-Ron - I wanted to express things that I did not experience and what many people do not go through. I wanted to play a character like being adopted...
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - As I mentioned before, I make films with little money so the content cannot be a "normal" movie. Yesterday, I watched the opening film here at the Busan International Film Festival "Always." I enjoy those kinds of movies, but with my miniscule budgets of 10,000,000 Won ($8,000-10,000 USD) I can't cast someone like So Ji-Sub. If I took the main part and cast an actress, like a middle aged woman, nobody would watch the film. People would think the movie is disgusting. I see many people in my daily life, like homeless people or disabled people. I get used to them and often talk to them. I listen about how they live their lives or what happens in their lives. In my movies, social minorities always appear. According to a magazine that is a strategic decision. I do believe that how social minorities are portrayed in movies is important. In "Barbie" an American kid and a Korean kid are shown at cross-roads. I think that is the world we live in. So many people are rich, but there are so many more people who are poor. The middle class seems to be disappearing. That's a shame.
- Moderator - Question for sisters Kim Sae-Ron and Kim Ah-Ron. This is the first time you acted together. How was it?
- Kim A-Ron (actress) - Acting with my sister, I felt more natural and had more fun.
- Kim Sae-Ron - Same as me. Acting with my younger sister, I felt more natural and comfortable.
- Audience Question - In the movie, Mang-Taek hesitates to send Soon-Ja in her sister's place. Is there symbolism there? Also, the scene with Barbie and Soon-Young talking in the bathtub together they share in common wanting to go to Seoul and their mothers. Any meaning in that?
- Lee Chun-Hee (actor) - I don't think it's because Mang-Taek likes Soon-Ja more than Soon-Young. I felt from the script that Mang-Taek wanted Soon-Ja next to him because of her poor health. Mang-Taek also had doubts because he felt Steve might say no because of Soon-Ja's poor health. That's why Mang-Taek hesitated and had second thoughts. If Soon-Young and Soon-Ja were my nieces, I think I might love Soon-Young more ... sorry.
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - During filming, I talked to Lee Chun-Hee about that a lot. He did complain that if Mang-Taek was such an aweful guy why did he have a change of heart? There are many bad people, but I think even though they can be extremely bad I don't think anybody is 100% evil. At the last moment their minds can change. I told Lee Chun-Hee that even though his character is terrible, he has his own set of emotions. Mang-Taek wanted to send healthy Soon-Young instead of sick Soon-Ja. He felt guilty, so at the last scene while talking on the phone, he couldn't control his emotions. I shot the movie in the city of Pohang. I feel Seoul is a desolate place. I feel differently about Pohang. I think if I shot the movie in Seoul I couldn't express as much as what is shown in "Barbie." I think Pohang is warmer than Seoul and Pohang is a place which can express the love between families.
- Audience Question - Question is for Cat Tebow. How did you like working with the director and Kim Sae-Ron.
- Cat Tebow (actress) - It was very nice. I had an extremely good time with everybody.
- Moderator- Question for Cat Tebow. How were you cast for the movie "Barbie?"
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - Cat Tebow's father is here. My movie "Mother is a Whore" was shown at the Hong Kong Film Festival. Steve watched that movie there. Afterwards, her father Steve asked me how much it cost to make the movie. I told him 5,800,000 Won ($5,000-$5,800 USD). He replied "are you sure you didn't mean 580,000,000 Won ($500,000-$580,000 USD)?" I told him no, I meant 5,800,000 Won. Steven then told me I was crazy. He also told me his daughter is an actress and wanted her to act in a Korean movie. After that, I came back to Korea. Steve contacted me and told me he wanted to invest in my movie and asked how much I need to make a movie. I told him 10,000,000 Won ($8,000-$10,000 USD). Steven told me again I was crazy, that it's not even enough to pay for a plane ticket. I already had the investments by then.
- Audience Question - In the movie, Soon-Ja keeps saying "I love America, I love America." Any symbolism there?
- Lee Sang-Woo (director) - When I was in middle and high school, I skipped classes and went to the movies to watch American films. I wanted to go to a university majoring in Theater, but I kept failing my entrace exams. I tried 4 times, but I couldn't get into a university. Like I just mentioned, I watched a lot of American movies in my middle school and high school days. In my mind, America was a dream country to me. At that time I thought if I couldn't go to America my life would be incomplete or miserable. After I couldn't get into a university I was dragged into working instead of serving in the military. I did part time jobs and made about 2,000,000 Won (1,600-2,000 USD). I went through the process to go to America and then told my parents. They were against my decision. They cried for a couple of days, but they couldn't do anything because I already bought my plane ticket and got my visa. At that time getting a U.S. visa was difficult. When I went into my interview at the U.S. embassy I told them "I love America, I want America" to my interviewer. I was really desperate to go there. Soon-Ja's mindset is similar to where I was at that time. I thought then that if I didn't go to America my miserable situation would continuously repeat itself. Soon-Ja thinks the same as how I thought back then. She lives in a miserable situation. The American father was played by an American man. When I gave him the script I told him America isn't described in a positive way and are you okay with that? He said it's not a problem. You might think these kinds of things do not happen nowadays, but it happened in Korea 22 years ago and it still happens in South East Asia. I lived in the Philippines for a long time and that kind of thing still happens there. Kids are sold for 3-5 million Won. We don't know about that, but it happens in Asia. In the movie, an American looks down on Asian women. I think America somehow looks down on Asia. The movie is not Anti-American. I love America.
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