‘Roaring Currents’ breaks Korean box-office records

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A historical drama depicting a famous sea battle between Korean and Japanese forces has set new records at the South Korean box office. The Admiral: Roaring Currents is the first domestic movie to have broken the magical KRW100 billion threshold in ticket sales, and also has attracted a much larger audience than any local production before it. After its fourth screening week, the movie, produced at a very modest budget of only $9.5 million (estimated), has earned approximately KRW125 billion ($122.4 million) from roughly 16.3 million admissions.

Directed by Han-min Kim, the film’s original title Myeong-ryang refers to the famous 1597 naval battle of the same name during which a tiny Korean fleet of just 12 vessels under the command of legendary Admiral Yi Sun-shin gained a decisive victory over a much larger Japanese force of 130 warships. The victory effectively thwarted an impending Japanese invasion of the Korean peninsula. According to historians, the crushing defeat was primarily facilitated by Korea’s deployment of a completely new type of armored vessel, so-called “turtle ships,” the super-weapons of their time.

At press time, Roaring Currents had dropped to second place, yielding its top spot to another local production, The Pirates. The swashbuckling action film tells the story of a band of pirates ruthlessly fighting against a group of bandits during a hunt for a gray whale that has swallowed a royal seal, an item that needs to be recovered at all cost. During its third weekend, The Pirates made KRW7.51 billion ($7.51 million), while Roaring Currents dropped 61.1% week-on-week, earning only KRW6.38 billion ($6.25 million) from 802,000 admissions during its fourth weekend.

Beijing Independent Fest Allegedly Blocked
Chinese authorities have allegedly blocked the annual Beijing Independent Film Festival, the event’s organizer, Li Xianting Film Fund, has claimed. Over the course of a week, the film fund’s founder, Li Xianting, had posted messages on social media stating that “state security personnel” had repeatedly pressured him to cancel the festival, although he did not explicitly name which state authority had allegedly been involved. He also claimed he had come “under state surveillance.” Fan Rong and Wang Hongwei, respectively the festival’s executive director and artistic director, verified Li Xianting’s posts as genuine.

The festival, inaugurated in 2006, was supposed to open on August 23 and run until August 31. It had in the past gained a reputation for screening films that sometimes could be very critical of China’s government. According to observers, this could be a sign that the government under hardline President Xi Jinping intends to tighten ideological controls after years of relative freedom. An Associated Press report on the alleged shutdown quoted Chris Berry, a professor of film studies at King’s College London, as saying, “It’s very clear that the Xi Jinping regime is determined to control the ideological realm, which has not been emphasized so much for a long time.”

Singapore Directors Team Up for Movie

Seven prominent Singaporean directors have joined forces to collaborate on an as-yet-untitled movie. The project reportedly has been commissioned by the Media Development Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Film Commission to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the city-state’s independence in 2015. It is expected that each of the seven directors, led by Royston Tan, will contribute a short film segment to what appears to be an episode movie reflecting on the country’s past, present and future. "I like to think that the project is [going to be] a microcosm of the Singapore story. We all have diverse filmmaking styles, we all see different aspects of Singapore and its 50-year journey in our unique ways, and yet it has given us a common sense of purpose," Tan told local media on behalf of his fellow directors. The movie, whose exact segment storylines, projected cast and budget also have not yet been announced, is expected to open sometime around the middle of next year.

India Chief Censor Charged with Bribery
The CEO of India’s movie censorship body, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), reportedly was arrested by police in Mumbai on August 19, following allegations he had solicited a bribe in exchange for speeding a certain production through the approval process. Rakesh Kumar was formally charged by a Mumbai court after it was heard that authorities had arrested two other men during an earlier sting operation. They claimed they had been sent by Kumar to collect a bribe of INR70,000 ($1,156) from the producers of an unnamed movie.

Kumar, a former senior railway official with no prior experience in the film industry, had only been appointed to the CBFC’s top post in January this year. The move reportedly was strongly opposed by several of the censorship body’s directors. “I said from the beginning that he was not appropriate for the job. Why should the film industry have to put up with a man who has no empathy for the industry?” local media quoted board member Leela Samson as saying.

The censorship body only recently launched an online system to speed up the application process and eliminate opportunities for bribery. However, film certification often can take more than one year, and industry observers have long assumed that bribe payments are quite common to hurry the process along. India’s film industry is worth roughly INR90 billion ($2.8 billion) per annum, with the trend rising as productions become increasingly more sophisticated and thus expensive to make.

For inquiries and feedback, contact Thomas Schmid at thaitom03@loxinfo.co.th