|A scene from the film "Swing Kids" / Courtesy of NEW|
By Park Jin-hai
A film about prisoners of war who try to seek happiness through dancing will arrive this winter. "Swing Kids," starring Doh Kyung-soo, or D.O. of K-pop group EXO, brings the story of a tap dancing group trapped in a prison camp to the silver screen.
Director Kang Hyoung-chul's new dance film is set during the 1951-53 Korean War in Geoje Prisoner of War Camp on Geoje Island, which was said to be as large as a little city. The camp held about 173,000 imprisoned soldiers from North Korea and China. By showing the characters' passion for dancing regardless of their nationalities, languages and ideologies, the film shows humanity surviving even in the most tragic environments.
Kang, acclaimed for his previous hit films "Scandal Makers" (2008) and "Sunny" (2011), says the film started from his thoughts about the way Koreans live ― separated into the North and the South, still living under the threat of war. "The matter of two Koreas and ideological differences has been always in my mind. So I wanted to make an exciting dance film for my next project and the result was 'Swing Kids,'" said the director during a press conference at a theater in Seoul, Tuesday.
The film, an adaptation of original musical "RHO71500," has been inspired by photos taken by Swiss photo journalist Werner Bischof showing the POWs performing "talchum," Korea's traditional mask dance, in front of Statue of Liberty at Geoje prison camp that the UN established during the Korean War.
The villain in his film is ideology, Kang says.
"In the film, so many have lost their loved ones during the war. I think the war is something that produces a limited few happy people and a majority of many unhappy people. So the most heinous villain in my film is ideology," the director said. "I thought it is wrong that ideology as a systemized belief makes or breaks an individual's happiness."
Doh takes the title role of Rho Ki-soo, a North Korean prisoner and troublemaker of the prison camp. Roh happens to fall in love with tap dancing after meeting Jackson, played by Jared Grimes, an officer from Broadway, and he joins Jackson's dance group, "Swing Kids." The inaugurated camp head, eager to improve the camp's image and get himself a promotion, supports the dance group and their passion toward dancing that goes beyond their differences and develops into a friendship.
For this new role, rising star Doh said he practiced tap dancing whenever he had time for about five months before shooting started.
For this much anticipated dance film, The Beatles' original song "Free as a Bird" has been used as the film's closing song. Many other great songs, including David Bowie's "Modern Love" and Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing," will accompany and please the ears of audiences.
The film will hit local theaters on Dec. 19.