Please close your eyes and block your ears during the brief documentary on 2 Nov

For all the wrong reasons, I’m not looking forward to the opening gala of this year’s London Korean Film Festival as much as I ought to be.

Ode-banner

Of course, I’m really looking forward to the actual movie itself. Ode to My Father has been a much-talked-about film, with admissions of over 14.25 million at the box office. It gives a version of Korea’s modern history which has struck a chord with many Koreans. A dear friend of mine who lives in Busan tells me that it could almost be the story of her family: her grandparents, born in the North of the Peninsula, fled South to Busan during the Korean War; her father was five years old at the time and grew up in Busan; and he has battled over the past half century from poverty to relative affluence. The film certainly resonated with her, and I look forward to seeing it.

But not to the gala evening itself. Here’s why.

Those who know me will know that I hate being interviewed on camera. At the various cultural events where there are roving reporters demanding immediate vox pop feedback from the audience I always run a mile. I don’t like thinking on my feet. And I hate even more seeing myself on screen.

So when the KCC asked me to be one of the talking heads on their mini-documentary to mark the 10th London Korean Film Festival I was extremely reluctant to agree. But after a bit of arm twisting (they told me that I was one of the few audience members to have been there from the start – flattery always works) I agreed because obviously I want to help out. We fixed a time for the interview the next day.

In order to minimise the stress of thinking on my feet, I asked them to send me the questions they were going to ask, so that I could do some preparation. And for the next 24 hours I browsed LKL’s articles on the festivals since 2006, got in touch with Jason Bechervaise, who wrote a chapter on the history of the LKFF for Collette Balmain’s Directory of World Cinema for any additional insight he might have, and made copious notes.

I turned up for the interview at the appointed time. It was a hot day. I was stressed, at being in a situation I really didn’t want to be in. So on both counts I was naturally pre-disposed to perspire.

Here’s how I was put at my ease (with apologies to my interviewer for the slight exaggeration).

Interviewer: Now, you don’t mind these two huge banks of spotlights pointing at you, do you? I know each bank is equivalent to a 10 kilowatt electric fire and it’s quite warm, but we need to make sure you’re properly lit.
Me: [sweating, even before I’ve started]. Sure, that’s fine.
Interviewer: Now, we need you to block out a bit in the background and we don’t want to move the camera. Please sit on the edge of the chair, looking slightly to the left, hands folded on the right arm of the chair in this really unnatural way.
Me: [Uncomfortable] How’s this?
Interviewer: Fine. Oh, actually, can we move the chair forward 3 inches?
Me: Sure. [Stands up, helps shift chair, sits back down, resumes uncomfortable posture, perspiring a bit more] How’s this?
Interviewer: Fine. Oh, actually, can we move the chair sideways 3 inches?
[Repeat process several times]
Interviewer: Oh, by the way, I know we sent you those questions, but can we just forget about those? We want you to talk for four minutes without hesitation, repetition or deviation on the subject of the first three years of the LKFF – the Odeon Covent Garden and Barbican years.
Me: [Thinks: &*@^*! Good job I read up a bit] Er, that’s fine.
Interviewer: Action!
Me: [A pretty decent 4-minute spiel, hitting most of the relevant points I intended to make, ending on a positive note. Thinks: not bad. I can live with that.]
Interviewer: [Fumbling with equipment] Oh. Sorry. The microphone wasn’t working. Can we do that again?
Me: [sweating profusely under the stress and heat of the lights]. Um, OK.
Interviewer: And can you sound more enthusiastic this time?
Me: [Thinks: &*@^*!]
Interviewer: You look hot. Would you like some water?
Me: [Thinks, sweating even more: No, just turn off the &*@^*! spotlights] [Smiling] Thanks
Interviewer: And, Action!
Me: [a fumbling mess of a 4 minute spiel, trying unsuccessfully to sound jolly]
Interviewer: Thanks.
Me: [Thinks: that was terrible, but I’m glad it’s over]
Interviewer: And now, can you give us your favourite moment from the past 9 festivals.
Me: [Pause. I have to think about that one]
Interviewer: And, Action!
Me: [An over-long ramble about how Jung Woo-sung was a bit of a tease to all the girls in the audience last year. Thinks: How the hell are they going to edit that down?]
Interviewer: And now can you give a welcome message for the 10th Festival?
Me: [completely crushed by now, face covered in perspiration. Several failed attempts to say something pertinent and enthusiastic. Certainly nothing usable. Thinks: I need several beers RIGHT NOW]
Interviewer: Thanks for your time. That was great.
Me: Ha, ha. At least I won’t have to watch the finished result.
Interviewer: Actually you will. It’s going to be shown as a trailer immediately before the opening film of the festival at the gala opening, and you’re going to be in the audience.
Me: [Thinks: I’m going to have to make full use of the alcoholic hospitality beforehand…]

I just hope they have a good editor. And I’ll look forward to the rest of the festival, if not to the opening night.

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