Magazine article Screen International

Yeon Sang-Ho Talks Korean Zombie Hit 'Train to Busan'

Magazine article Screen International

Yeon Sang-Ho Talks Korean Zombie Hit 'Train to Busan'

Article excerpt

Yeon Sang-ho is conflicted. Following its world premiere at Cannes' Midnight Screenings in May, his first live-action feature Train To Busan was released in South Korea in July, to become the market's top hit of the year.

With more than 11.5 million admissions and $83m at the box office, according to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC), the zombie thriller is also the country's ninth biggest all-time hit. But the director is thinking about his indie animation roots and how to proceed from here. "For a long time, I only ever dreamed of being an animation director," he says. "My dilemma right now is that the animation industry worldwide is a minor one."

Yeon made his feature debut in 2011 with a gripping animation about school violence, The King Of Pigs, which had an award-winning world premiere at Busan and went on to play in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes. He followed it up with an even darker and more violent animation, The Fake, about an outcast who goes up against a fraudulent evangelical minister in a rural town. Both films travelled around the world with festivals and sales deals, but the sum total of their combined local box office was around $280,000.

Internationally, Train To Busan has clocked up a total of $45m at time of writing, according to Contents Panda, the sales outfit of investor/ distributor Next Entertainment World (NEW). It took $2m at the North America box office but, more impressively, $10m in Taiwan and $9m in Hong Kong. Contents Panda is in talks for a remake (or two), and fans are clamouring for a sequel.

Train To Busan stars Gong Yoo as a career-obsessed father who is taking his young daughter (Kim Su-an) to see his ex-wife, but the high-speed train on which they are travelling becomes infested with a zombie virus as the epidemic spreads outside. The idea occurred to Yeon as he was making what is now called the Train To Busan prequel, Seoul Station, an animation that focuses on homeless people mistaken for zombies because of social prejudice (released almost a month after Train To Busan, Seoul Station took $1m at the local box office according to KOFIC).

"With Train To Busan, I just came up with the idea of a psychological thriller about what happens the day after Seoul Station, and wasn't thinking of directing it myself," he says. …

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