Young Korean filmmaker's meteoric rise at Cannes shows how luck favors the prepared

By Park Ung Posted : June 14, 2024, 10:19 Updated : July 9, 2024, 09:32
Director Lim Yoo-ri talks during an interview with Aju Press on June 7, 2024. AJU PRESS Kim Dong-woo
SEOUL, June 14 (AJU PRESS) - A young Korean director suddenly became the talk of the town when her short film was invited to this year's Cannes Film Festival in May.

"Forest of Echoes" directed by Lim Yoo-ri was invited to the prestigious festival's La Cinef, a section showcasing short- and medium-length films submitted by film school students around the world, aimed at exploring new talents and aspiring directors.

The 22-minute short was among 18 finalists selected out of some 2,263 entries. Her directorial debut at Cannes was a dream come true for her and it may be what every filmmaker dreams of.

"When the festival first reached out to me, I thought it was a scam because I didn't expect that at all," the-26-old filmmaker recalled in an interview with Aju Press last Friday.

"Forest of Echoes" deals with a unique and peculiar story in which a girl runs away into a forbidden forest after being chased by men in her neighborhood who attempt to molest her. She then meets her old friend there, who disappeared several years ago after being forced to get married an old man.

When asked how Lim came up with the story, she revealed that it all started with a dream. "One morning, I woke up with vivid memories of my dream and thought it would be great to write a script based on it."
Director Lim Yoo-ri talks during an interview with Aju Press on June 7, 2024. AJU PRESS Kim Dong-woo
An avid fan of Mexican auteur Guillermo Del Toro, famous for blending horror with fairy tale elements in a grotesque style, Lim admitted her work was greatly inspired by him. Without hesitation, she clarified that her mysterious short film falls within the realm of fantasy.

"I didn't want a typecast story like good versus evil, so the film is not about good women punishing bad men. Rather it's about a person trying to step further in the moment of breaking down."

For this reason, the film leaves its ending open to viewers' interpretation through the final scene where the protagonist steps out of the forest and heads towards somewhere unknown along the vast ocean in front of her. And that is also why the leading woman, played by Jung Eun-sun, was cast among 350 aspiring actresses who auditioned for the role.

"Most of them interpreted the role as a vengeful victim, after reading the film's script. But Jung was the only one who perceived the character as someone who has a strong will and courage to find a way to survive, pushing further even when she has no energy left," Lim said.

It took about a year for Lim to turn the story into a movie. The project became possible after she obtained $10,000 in funding from entertainment giant CJ's "Story Up" program which supports aspiring young filmmakers and other creators. She also had to dig deep into her own pocket to make that happen.

During the interview, Lim modestly described herself as "lucky." But as American baseball legend Branch Rickey's famous quote, "Luck is the residue of design," suggests, Lim's success was purely the results of her tireless efforts and meticulous preparations.

It took Lim some time to realize that filmmaking was her true calling. After exploring various fields of study, she unexpectedly found herself drawn to the world of filmmaking when she entered the Korea National University of Arts in 2020.

When asked about her approach to filmmaking, she said she believes movies should be like good conversations. "What's in common between movies and conversations is that you should not be the one who's talking unilaterally. To this end, it would be important to make audiences intrigued," she said. "I'm always captivated by fantasy movies as I can observe reality from a step behind, giving me a fresh perspective."

"I want to communicate with people through stories that can linger longer in their hearts," Lim added.

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