Kim Sol

Scattered Night is a feature from co-directors Kim Sol and Lee Jih-young. The film drama premiered at the 2019 Jeonju International Film Festival.
Prior to Scattered Night, Kim Sol directed Inertia (2016) which was screened at the Seoul International Youth Film Festival.

The following group interview took place at the KCCUK in London on 12 November 2019 as part of the London Korean Film Festival:


Hangul Celluloid: I’d like to start by asking about your decision to virtually avoid music completely in Scattered Night, aside from the closing credits. What led you to that decision, and was that your intention to very outset of the script stage?

From the very beginning we did not want to use music for this film, with both myself and my co-director we are both not fond of overusing music in film, in general, because we think it disrupts the emotionality and sentiment of the film from the narrative. Our story is not the most dramatic kind, so we thought about, perhaps, in the process of editing we considered adding music if there are suitable scenes, but we couldn’t find the right moment to do that. For the very last scene, when you are facing the wall, we thought that perhaps using music at the end it would enrich the atmosphere, so that’s why we decided to do that.

EasternKicks: It’s quite a poignant film about a family separating, and it resonated with me on a personal level. What was the inspiration for the story, for you and your co-director?

My co-director Lee Ji-hyeon, it was scripted by her so she did say that this is not 100 per cent autobiographical, but the reason she thought about this story is because around the time she was writing the script she thought a lot about her family history, and she just wanted to reflect on the complex issues that came out of her family. At the beginning it was more focusing on the grown-ups, and surrounding their story, but later, as it developed, it moved on to the perspectives of the children.

Film Doo: How would you describe your collaboration with your co-director, how did you divide up your duties, and where do you think your strengths lie?

It was scripted by Lee and myself and another friend of ours in the university we went to gave feedback to her once a week, while it was in the process of development, and we did share other processes together from casting to location hunting. Because one of the most famous co-directors are the Dardenne brothers, the Belgian directors, we studied how they collaborated on their films together. So, we decided to divide our labour loosely into two halves. How to direct the actors and the performers were done by Lee, and I focused on the cinematography, how to shoot the scenes, and continuity. We shared a monitor of course, so we were each focused on the area we were responsible for. I think the strengths of director Lee is she can keep a very objective stance throughout the process, because it takes a long time to develop a film, you are just thinking about the story and you lose your own perspective on the project. But she can stay cool, which was very helpful. My strengths, I’m not so sure, but I think I can say that I have a very keen sense of observation for the movement of the actors, and how to frame things, so this is something that I was trying to focus on, and I thought it worked out quite well.

Hangul Celluloid: The entire cast gives great performances, but Moon song-ah as little Sunmi blew me away, she was exemplary. Even more so considering how young she is, I wondered was the way she directed different to the adult actors? And given she gave such a superb performance, how was she guided before and during filming?

There wasn’t a huge difference in directing the grown-ups and the children, we did lots of rehearsals, and there was preparation during shooting as well. I worked intensely with the two children together, we at first tried to explain the reasons why certain things happened a particular way, and how things happened and why, but I think we tried to focus on each moment, and how different emotions rise for a particular moment. So, I tried to use metaphors to explain things easily, using music melody as a metaphor for different emotions, from C onwards, so in a particular moment she could be at a C but then in another she would feel better so she would be higher, maybe at an F. We used that as a reference so that she could understand. These two children, the co-director asked her how she was approaching the role, and after the long process she said she would just follow her mind in that particular moment. We did a good job directing her, but I think she’s just a talented actor herself, so we were very lucky.

EasternKicks: In Korea, and in Korean society, being divorced in frowned upon, and you can see that during the film at Sunmi’s birthday party the kids have to lie to their grandmother that their parents are still together. With your film, do you think it might change the perspectives of people who watch it?

My simple answer is no. Even though this film deals with the subject matter of divorce I think we were more focused on the emotions and sentiments surrounding this topic, so we didn’t really have big ambitions to change the larger discourse. But in Korea the situation is changing so the perception of divorce is becoming less biased and more accepting.

Film Doo: When you were working on this film, did you ever feel like you were judging your own characters. Or was it important to you that you didn’t take sides in the conflict that is happening?

We tried to keep a certain distance from all our characters, these children because they are going through their parents’divorce, they could easily be sympathised, but we tried to avoid that. Also, because these two adults are causing these problems for their children and they’re responsible for it so they are character who should be blamed, but we didn’t want to do that because they are all entangled in the situation. They’re trying to deal with the situation as best they can, so that was very important for us.

Hangul Celluloid: The closing credits for your film for your cast and crew are both in Korean and English which, even today, is rare for a Korean film. Does that mean you were, from the outset, thinking of an international market as well as the domestic market? Did you have plans to get the film screened at foreign film festivals like the London Korean Film Festival?

The world premiere of this film was at the Jeonju Film Festival this year so the condition for submitting the film was to have English subtitles, so I had to do that. But also, for me, when I watch foreignfilms, I’m always curious about who’s involved and how many people were involved etc. so when the credits were only a foreign language it makes me curious and a bit frustrated, because I wanted to find out about that. So, because it’s very useful information so that’s perhaps the reason. Regarding international market, I really did it for the Jeonju Film Festival, I wasn’t aware of how to approach other foreign film festivals because I was in such a hurry to submit my film for Jeonju.

EasternKicks: This is your first feature film, were there any challenges you and your co-director faced while making it?

The challenge was the fact this was co-directed, because we are working on one project together and we had to sustain the tone and colour throughout the film but there are two people involved so we had to constantly negotiate, and one of us had to compromise. So, that was difficult but at the same time it was a great learning curve for me, I honestly don’t think I would have made this film by myself, so I have mixed feelings about that.

Film Doo: One aspect of the film that interested me is the two siblings spend a lot of time together discussing the divorce and try to figure out if they’re separating. Even though in the final scene Sunmi is worried that they’re going to drift apart and it’s going to become awkward between them, do you feel that in some way this emotional experience they share brings them closer together?

I agree with your reading, as they discuss and think about how to deal with their parents divorce and what they would do if they lived separately, they kind of create a certain shared concern that helps their bonding. But, equally, as they eat ice cream together after school and doing recycling together, I think all these moments are also very important for them to build their bonds and stay close.


On behalf of everyone involved, I'd sincerely like to thank the London Korean Film Festival and the Korean Cultural Centre UK for allowing us all to interview director Kim Sol at such length.

(Many thanks, also, to Roxy Simons for transcribing the interview).