This year, the film Festival Korean in Paris decided to honour its 11e – edition the young director Yoon Ga-eun. A choice all the more relevant that with his feature-length film The World Of Us (our critique here), the filmmaker offers a look more or less unprecedented in the Korean cinema ; that of childhood, seen through the eyes of children. Through his three short films (The Taste of Salvia, Sprout and Guest) and his first feature, she paints a portrait exciting when mixed with the innocence, the naivety of youth and its little dramas. His encounter, therefore, was all the more expected. Smiling, very expressive, and speaks to us with great gestures and a look of endearing, it is a radiant woman, in the image of his films, that we have met.
If I’m not mistaken, The World Of Us is, in fact, a longer version of your first short film The Taste of Salvia.
Yes quite. In fact the story I wanted to tell since forever, it was that of The World Of Us. So when I made The Taste of Salvia, it was sort of a test, a rough draft of what I had in mind. And as soon as I had the opportunity to make my first feature this was, logically, to finally go to the end.
And it was not possible to continue with this story of friendship between two children from your shorts after ?
In fact I began my studies of cinema quite late, at the age of 28 years. I was able to get into a film school after the filming of the Taste of Salvia. It was a period of my life where I was thinking a lot compared to what I could handle. So I didn’t want to stay confined to the same story, but to continue my experimentation.
In all your movies you have a look at the world of childhood. What is it that fascinates you so much in ?
This is a period I like, a lot. As the childhood, adolescence. These are periods of my life where I have significantly marked. When I was young, I used to read a lot of novels which treated of the subject. And as I have immersed myself in these stories, for me, it was a kind of therapy. I used to get a lot of comfort through this. And above all I’m someone who has a lot of memories related to childhood. I have even more of my childhood than my adult life. But over time my interest will probably on something else.
Suddenly there was a hand autobiographical in your films ?
Yes, of course, there are influences of my experiences.
As fetching inch of soy as a child, as in Sprout ?
(she laughs) Yes indeed ! I remember my mother had asked me to go out and buy tofu. But for a child to go to the market is very long journey. There are so many things around us, that arrived on site, we do not know what they should take. Suddenly instead of the tofu I am back home with inches of soybean.
The most wonderful in your work is that you always adjust your gaze to the child.
Yes this is exactly what I wanted to do. Thank you for having noticed. In fact I never said that children were beings different from adults. They are just smaller but they have their world, their experiences and their way of thinking. So it was important not to look at them with the point of view of an adult.
Suddenly the adults are a little behind. Is it in order to issue a criticism of the adults ?
In fact, when you see a film that revolves around the adults, the world of children does not exist. So, no, this is not to criticize the adults, but rather to reverse the situation. The heroes are the children, so I stay focused on them.
Yes, it is rather that you show a picture of the adults not totally positive. There is the evocation of a pedophile in The Taste of Salvia, there are in The World of Us a father a little too focused on the alcohol…
Actually there was at one time a pedophile. Except that this is not an extraordinary thing for girls in Korea. Nearly every kid encounters at some point in his life this kind of predator. It became something common. And for the father, I wanted to show that there are problems in the adult world, because it is the reality. But if you look at the world of children, it is the same thing. It is not entirely good, there are problems ; the harassment to the school, the cruelty of children. I wanted to make an interaction between these two worlds that make up the world in general.
How was your work with your interpreters ?
It was very different depending on their age. I have worked with very young children, about six years, on Sprout and The World of Us. This is an age where we can’t talk about things very deep on the characters and their role. So every time I was giving them directions and we tried to introduce an atmosphere of relaxation for them to play in a natural way. I told them that it was a bit of a game, that they came on the shoot, not to interpret, but in order to play. It allowed me for example to have their own language, in terms of dialogues. They had no script to learn. It is really a character of their own that spring. And for those beyond 10 years I think they are old enough to understand things. The difference with adults is the experience and the knowledge. But in terms of understanding I think they are like us. So we can talk very easily with them on subjects profound. We chatted a lot and they managed to make me feedback on what we were doing, to give me their opinion.
I noticed that you use mostly female characters. Why ?
First of all, I’m leaving my lived. So as I am a woman, it is reflected on my films. Also I think I have more affinity with boys and girls, I have the impression to understand it better. But more importantly, there is the fact that I’ve always watched a lot of movies without finding little girls heroines. There are often adventures experienced by young boy make the four hundred blows. But it is unlikely to really have the point of view of girls. So as a filmmaker I think I wanted to leave a trace of it and start changing things.
Remarks collected by Pierre Siclier film Festival Korean in Paris 2016