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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Douglas Sirk Award for Life's Work - to Korean director Kim Ki-duk

by Birgit S.

Each year Hamburg honours outstanding film personalities with the Douglas Sirk Award. This year, during the 20th anniversary of the Filmfest Hamburg, the Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-duk was presented with this prestigious prize. Ever since 1995 this prize has been awarded to a well-deserving film director for his/her contribution to cinematic culture, like Clint Eastwood, Jodie Foster, Jim Jarmusch, Aki Kaurismäki, Gérard Depardieu, Andreas Dresen, and others.

Kim Ki-duk graciously thanked the audience for this honour by singing the folksong “Arirang” to the audience as is the custom of his country. Festival manager Albert Wiederspiel explained, “Kim Ki-duk is a director who is constantly questioning the art of film-making. Over the last few years he has even questioned himself as an artist. We are delighted to be able to honour this reflection. Furthermore, his 18th film Pieta is an extremely Douglas-Sirk-like melodrama despite the language of the film having changed so much since the 1950s.”

Kim Ki-duk has already won numerous other film festival awards, including the Silver Bear at the Berlinale for Samaria and the Silver Lion in Venice for Bin Jip. Kim’s characters are plagued by fear and guilt, looking for redemption. For his ruthless self-portrait Arirang he won in the section “Un Certain Regard” at the Cannes Film Festival 2011. Pieta, which premiered in Hamburg, is a thrilling and disturbing drama where the director goes to extremes, showing people willing to give everything for money – and in the end are losing everything (See page 6). The Hamburg audience might remember his film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and … Spring (2003) which in contrast was very poetic with amazing cinematography.

Born in 1960 in Bonghwa, South Korea, Kim Ki-duk later moved to the capital Seoul. Reflecting on his childhood he says: “I was brought up in a very military manner, with many beatings. I don’t feel pain any more.” After completing his military service he studied Fine Art in Paris and since 1996 has directed 18 films.

Festival film: Pieta (see separate Film Review)

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Who was Douglas Sirk?

He was born in Hamburg-Eimsbüttel in 1897 under the name of Hans Detlef Sierck and was a theatre director from 1922 to 1937, concentrating on classic playwrights. In 1934 he was hired by UFA, Germany’s most influential movie company, which released his first feature film. His films made Zarah Leander a famous star. Despite his great success he left Germany in 1937 because of his opposition to the policies of the Third Reich. After a brief stay in France and Holland, he was invited to the U.S. where he continued his career with a series of melodramas. His early American films stand out as atypical but competent thrillers. In 1959 his “Imitation of Life” became Universal-International Studios’ most successful film commercially. Incidentally, it was his last one. He retired from filmmaking and returned to Europe. He died in Switzerland in 1987. (BS)

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