Why Korean movie ‘Cobweb’ is a perfect fit for Philippine cinema

September 25, 2023 - 1:56 PM
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The cast and director of the South Korean movie "Cobweb" during their online media conference on Sept. 20, 2023. (TBA Studios/Released)

A film that will allow people to rekindle their love for cinema.

This was how South Korean director Kim Jee-woon described his period dark comedy “Cobweb” during its global press conference held via Zoom on Wednesday, September 20.

Set in the 1970s, “Cobweb” tells the story of filmmaker Kim Yeol, a director obsessed with remaking the ending of a movie he just filmed — also titled “Cobweb.” Chaos ensues when complications arise in the film set.

The film stars Song Kang-ho, known for his role in the Academy Award-winning 2019 film “Parasite.”

Barunson E&A, the same studio behind “Parasite,” is the producer and the global distributor of “Cobweb”.

Actor Song Kang-ho during the media conference for the movie “Cobweb.” (TBA Studios/Released)

It also stars Lim Soo-jung (“A Tale of Two Sisters”), Oh Jung-se (“It’s Okay Not To Be Okay”) and Jeon Yeo-been (“Vincenzo”), among others.  

“Cobweb” premiered in the out of competition section of the 76th Cannes International Film Festival in May 2023. 

During the media conference — attended by members of the press from all over the world, including Interaksyon — director Kim Jee-woon said that he got the idea of the movie during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything came to a halt, and cinema was no exception,” Kim told members of the press, adding that the “halt” allowed him to about what cinema really means to him and “what cinema holds in my life.”

He further explained: “I am sure everyone asked questions like, ‘What is cinema?’ and “What does film mean to me?’ And I myself, I thought about when I first fell in love with cinema, and I asked myself what does film mean to me personally.”

Kim Jee-woon, a filmmaker who has been active in the South Korean entertainment industry since the mid-1990s, is perhaps well known for directing the 2003 psychological horror drama “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “A Bittersweet Life.”

His 2016 period action thriller “The Age of Shadows,” which stars Song Kang-ho and Korean superstar Gong Yoo, was the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language category of the 89th Academy Awards.

“Cobweb” director Kim Jee-woon (TBA Studios/Released)

Kim said he wants “Cobweb” to be a film that “allows you to rekindle the love that you have for cinema” — particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the global film industry go on a standstill and endure billion-dollars worth of losses. 

Kim added that he also wants the film “to be an encouragement not just to me but to everyone involved in cinema all over the world to really rekindle that romance as well as to encourage yourself to move even further.”

“Cobweb” — essentially a period film about filmmaking — was set in the 1970s because what the Korean film industry went through then is similar to what Korean cinema is going through today, after the pandemic.

Specifically, Kim said that the 1960s saw Korean cinema produce over 200 films a year. But the director explained censorship saw films produced yearly during the 1970s go down to around 100.

This state — the reduced production of films following a sort of golden age for local cinema — mirrors what Kim says is happening to Korean cinema now. 

“Going through that dark time in K-cinema, I got to thinking, how did our directors and filmmakers, how did they break through those hard times?” Kim said. 

He further shared: “By translating the spirit that our filmmakers had at that time that allowed them to break through those hardships in my film Cobweb, I felt like these days in Korea we often say what is important is the undying spirit, and I wanted to show through the character.”

“Looking at what happened during the 1970s, I feel like now is a good time to tell that story, and also it is meaningful.” 

This aligns with the reason why film producer and distributor TBA Studios decided to release “Cobweb” in the cinemas, given how Philippine cinema also struggled because of the pandemic.

Daphne Chiu, president and COO of TBA Studios, added that Filipinos love Korean entertainment. That, plus the prestige attached to Song Kang-ho and the producers behind “Parasite” made “Cobweb” a good choice.

In 2022, TBA Studios distributed films such as “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “Triangle of Sadness” and “Nocebo.”

In a previous interview, Chiu also said their decision to screen the films in Philippine cinemas is part of their goal to drive moviegoers back to the theaters.

“Cobweb” opens in Philippine theaters on October 4. — Chuck Smith