Min-Young Yoo and 'Cho-De| Invitation' at Venice

Min-Young Yoo with her award

Women's film festivals are increasing their reach. They're collaborating: the International Women's Film Festival Network and many cross-border initiatives like the Belgian fest Elles Tournent's partnership with the first Beijing Women's Film Festival. And all the activity is just as well. This year the gender balance among the directors of Sundance's United States selections is an exception among the big festivals. Women directors are not well-represented even at Venice,  where women directors participated strongly last year.

So it's great to have the opportunity to celebrate a woman director's achievement at a major festival. I was delighted, thanks to translator Rose Chang (then International Business Manager at Indiestory)  to interview  24 year-old Min-Young Yoo whose Cho-De (Invitation) won the Orizzonti YouTube Award for the Best Short Film. She was the only woman director to win a major award at Venice in 2012.

Still from Cho-De| Invitation
Min-Young graduated from the Department of Film Studies at Chungang University and wrote, directed and edited Cho-De| Invitation: ‘My husband died. I found a pair of shoes in his car’ – a story about ‘the uninvited and unconsoled’. Last year, Cho-De screened at Hong Kong’s Asia Pacific Film Festival, the 4th Korean-Chinese University Film Festival, a Focus on Asia special event screening in Tokyo and the 38th Seoul Independent Film Festival, as well as at Venice.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Do you come from a family of artists, writers, filmmakers?

A: My father and mother’s work doesn’t relate to the films, but my mother really loves movies. I have been seen the classic movies with my mother and have been felt that I love movies. I majored in film directing at the university and I am studying in Korean National University of Arts.

Q: Tell me a little bit about making Cho-De?

A: I am not inspired by anyone. I have been a habit of leaving a note for everything that flashes across my mind, and Cho-De is one of them. I started this story to express ‘consolation’, not ‘death’.

Q: How did Cho-De get to Venice? Did you enter it, or did someone else?

A: Indiestory has distributed Cho-De, and I never expected it!

Q: What preparations did you make for Venice?

A: I was there with the cinematographer of Cho-De, he is also my lover. I didn’t expect that I got the award, so I didn’t prepare anything for the ceremony.

Q: Once in Venice, what was it like?

A: Venice was wonderful! I visited Venice before for a very short period, but I felt different compared before. I had such a blissful time there with other invited directors. Especially, the Korean feature film, Pieta, was in the international competition section so I can do many things to do with the Pieta team [Pieta won the Golden Lion for the Best Film]. I didn’t have any special challenge.

Q: What happened when you won the award? 

A: I didn’t know about it. I checked out the hotel to take a sight-seeing tour. At that time, I got the phone-call from festival staff, but I didn’t notice it. Just before I got the award, the staff told me I would get the prize.

Q: Did the award open up opportunities for you, at Venice and after? 

A: There’s nothing special. It doesn’t give me any opportunities. Just my family and friends congratulated me. This would help me in my career.

Q: What advice do you have for other filmmakers who go to Venice? Any special advice for women?

A: Honestly, I don’t know what I can give advice for women directors. Just go there with your beautiful clothes. Venice Film Festival is different from Cannes Film Festival, not splendid but warm and close festival. I think it’s not competition, just festival. Please enjoy the festival.

Q: What writers and filmmakers especially influence you? Can you tell me a little bit about these influences?

A: I might have been affected by literature or novels, but there’s no specific one. I just like to make stories, so I might have been affected by a novelist.

Q: Have you always been competitive? Do you enjoy competition?

A: I don’t like to compete with someone, but if I have to, I want to win. Anyway, I am stressed out when I compete.

Q: Is there government funding of film in Korea? How does this work?

A: I don’t know exactly, but I think maybe we have.

Q: In Korea, about what proportion of films are written and directed by women? Are there particular challenges for you as a woman filmmaker?

A: Especially in the commercial field, there are few women directors since it is hard to debut. I don’t have any special challenge.

Q: I know of at least two women’s film festivals in Korea. The International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul is one I’d very much like to attend, because it has such a broad range of programmes. Can you tell me a little bit about your experience of women’s film festivals?

A: I wanted to show my film at the international women’s film festival, but they didn’t pick my film.

Q: What are you doing now? What’s next for you?

A: I am in the graduate course. I shot the short film and have edited the film now. I am doing many things at the same time.

Q: Anything you’d like to add?

A: Thank you for your interest in my small (not commercial, and long) movie, Cho-De.

Some Wellywood Woman posts about major fests; & interviews about women directors' experiences there

Cannes and Women Directors 2012

Destri Martino at Cannes

Zia Mandviwalla at Cannes

Cannes and the high stakes involved

A Golden Age for Women Who Make Movies  (Venice) 

Niam Itani at Venice

Toronto and Women Directors 2012 

Sundance 2013

Cannes and Women Directors 2013

Jane Campion at Cannes 2013