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Korean Indie Film Earns Praise From Two Oscar Winners

BY Julie Jones | Mar 14, 2014 01:57 PM EDT

Han Gong Ju

The Korean indie film "Han Gong Ju" recently won praise from two Academy Award winners. Director Martin Scorsese, who has many Academy Award nominations and won an Oscar for directing "The Departed," said he was impressed by director Lee Su Jin's film.

"'Han Gong Ju' is outstanding in visual theme, image, sound, editing and performance," said Scorcese. "I have a lot to learn from this movie and can't wait to see Lee Su Jin's next film."

Scorsese saw the film at the Fribourg International Film Festival.

French actress Marion Cotillard, who won an Oscar for her role in "La Vie en Rose," also complimented the film and in particular its leading actress.

"So much detail," she said. "And the actress was amazing."

The film about a teenage girl who moves to another school won the Citizen Review Award at the 18th Busan International Film Festival. It also won the Golden Star award at the 13th Mirakeshi International Film Festival and received the Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

It received three prizes at the Deauville Asian Film Festival in France, including jury prize, popular choice and international critique awards at the event

It is not the first time a Korean film has done well at the Fribourg International Film Festival Lee Chang Dong's "Poetry won the grand prize in 2011.

In Lee Su Jin's film, Han Gong Ju, played by Chun Woo Hee, is a young girl who suffers though some traumatic events force her to shut down emotionally.  Mid-semester she is transferred to another school and her former teacher, played by Jo Dae Hee, takes her to live with his irritable mother.

Gong Ju is reluctant to trust anyone, so she has a hard time making friends. She cannot rely on her parents who have abandoned her. A new friend encourages her to join her school's a capella club, but Gong Ju is haunted by past tragedy. Gong Ju was gang-raped when she tried to help a friend. In order to survive, Gong Ju must find a way to move on.

Director Lee Su Jin told Variety that the film was inspired by a true event.

"There was a case of gang rape a long time ago which became the motif of this film," he said. "But I didn't want the film to be about judging the victim and assailant. I wanted it to convey my hope that other  'Gong ju's' cornered into a dead end can perhaps avoid taking such an extreme decision, and to express my support for them."

Reviews called the film "beautiful," "sweet" and "unsettling." The Rotterdam International Film Festival jury described it as "a skillfully crafted and highly accomplished debut."

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