Magazine article Variety

Gender Bias Blocks Entry for Women

Magazine article Variety

Gender Bias Blocks Entry for Women

Article excerpt

WHEN YIM SOON-RYE ("Whistle Blower"), one of the best-known female directors in South Korea, made her debut feature "Three Friends" in 1996, she was only the sixth woman filmmaker in the entire history of Korean cinema.

Since then, the number of female filmmakers has grown, but not significantly, considering the size the Korean film industry has reached and the number of films that receive theatrical releases every year. In fact, there's been slippage. According to the 2016 Seoul Intl. Women's Film Festival's trailer, the percentage of female directors in Korean films has decreased from 10.7% to 5.2% over the past five years.

The gender imbalance goes beyond filmmakers and extends into the ranks of characters and actors. Among 11 homegrown films that have passed the 10 million-admissions mark, only "The Thieves" and "Assassination" presented women characters in lead or solo roles.

In such a context, 2016 was a unique year where quite a few films presented female characters in lead roles. Among 23 Korean films that managed 1 million admissions, six titles featured actresses on top of the end credit. That's double the number of such films released in 2015.

Top director Park Chanwook's lesbian romance "The Handmaiden" presented two actresses, Kim Min-hee and Kim Tae-ri, in the lead. The period drama, which competed in Cannes last year, earned $30.2 million during its theatrical run in South Korea.

Hur Jin-ho's "The Last Princess" featured actress Son Ye-jin as lead, and dedicated the narrative to the historical figure's life. Earning $38.1 million during the theatrical run, "The Last Princess" became the ninth-biggest film of 2016. When the film faced a budget crisis, Son also invested $857,700 of her own money.

"Because it is very rare for a biopic of a woman to be produced, I really wanted this film to be made," says Son.

"Familyhood" is another title in which the story revolves around a woman's character. …

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