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Hitting theaters before heading to the polls : Two new films take a look at the dark side of political campaigns

Apr 21,2017
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A few weeks ahead of the 19th presidential election, “The Plan” and “The Mayor,” both of which give an inside look at elections are heading to theaters. [SHOWBOX, ATNINE FILM]
With the presidential election scheduled to take place in less than three weeks, films depicting elections have been generating buzz among moviegoers. Whether these films have intentionally headed to theaters right before the election or not, they have become the center of attention, due especially to the unique political circumstances under which the snap election is being held.

A political documentary “The Plan,” which raises suspicion over the transparency of the results of the 18th presidential election, was pre-released online last week and was officially released in theaters on Thursday. Produced by Kim Eo-jun, a well-known liberal commentator, and directed by Choe Jin-seong, the documentary hints at the possibility of fabrication in the result of the 2012 election with statistics to back up its claims.

“The goal of the documentary is not to blame or criticize the past election, but to raise awareness that fabricating election results should not be repeated if that is what happened in the past,” said Kim during a press preview last week, and added that his goal is to have as many people see the documentary as possible before the forthcoming election.

Though reviews vary, the documentary was successful in capturing the public’s attention.

“There has been so much data floating around the internet that raised the possibility of [fabrication of the 2012 presidential election result], and I’m grateful that a film touching on the issue has been made… ‘The Plan’ clearly proves that the election outcome was concocted,” wrote one reviewer on internet portal Naver.

Another reviewer wrote, “Though it started off with a reasonable question, it concludes by spawning a conspiracy theory without anything definitive.”

Less than a week later, “The Mayor,” about a politician aiming to win a Seoul mayoral election and ultimately the presidential election, will hit theaters. Directed by Park In-je of “Moby Dick” (2011), the upcoming drama sheds light on the dirty side of political elections by depicting greedy politicians who endlessly chase after authority.

Many have paid attention to the film for its star-studded cast that includes Choi Min-sik and Gwak Do-won, but the film’s release date has raised some eyebrows.

In response to questions about whether the film is intentionally heading to theaters just a few weeks ahead of the presidential election, the filmmaker was stern, saying that it was never planned.

“I started writing the script for the movie three years ago, but it is coincidentally heading to theaters during this period [when the presidential election is just around the corner]. Though I’m a little concerned and afraid [about the timing of the release], I feel excited at the same time,” said the director at a press preview earlier this week.

Starring Choi (“Roaring Currents”), Gwak (“The Wailing”) and Shim Eun-kyung (“Fabricated City”), the movie centers on Seoul Mayor Byeon Jong-gu (Choi), running for a third term, and his campaign’s executive director Sim Hyeok-su (Gwak), who also is an ambitious politician craving for power. Shim appears as an ebullient 26-year-old working in advertising who joins the mayor’s campaign to help the mayor win re-election.

Throughout the film, Mayor Byeon is seen to have many different sides. He reveals each one depending on the situation. He raps during a television show in front of young people and graciously listens to bitter admonition from an audience. But the second cameras turn off, he becomes obviously uncomfortable.

When a sinkhole is formed in Seoul, he intentionally dishevels his hair and gives a concerned look to cameras, but happily eats high-end sushi in a rescue tent. Every time he confronts threatening situations that could endanger his political career, he skillfully gives a speech to his constituents (whom he secretly looks down on) that gets them to fall for him once again.

“Up until [shooting the film], I had never been directly engaged in politics or met closely with politicians… After trying to think of the image of politicians, I concluded that speech is the most important skill for them. Politicians rise and fall from the words they spit out. So I decided to focus on having a good command of language when playing Byeon Jong-gu,” said Choi, who was also present at the press preview.

Though the flick showcases politicians’ search for more power, the film itself is not made to highlight the dirty side of political elections, but to touch on people’s natural desire for authority.

“I wanted to depict the search for authority, which is one of the basic desires that is innate [to people],” said the director. “Lust for power exists everywhere from an elementary school classroom to an office. Then what is the first thing people do to obtain the power? It is [running for] an election. Though the movie seems to center on Byeon Jong-gu’s and Sim Hyeok-su’s greed, the election is being used as a means to shed light on people’s basic desire for authority.”

“The Mayor” co-stars Moon So-ri, Ra Mi-ran and Ryu Hye-young. The movie, which runs for 130 minutes, is rated 15 and above.

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]