Reportedly, Kim Ki-Duk, the award-winning Korean filmmaker died from Covid-19 complications in Latvia on Friday early morning. As per reports, he reached Latvia on November 20 to buy a house in Jurmala but didn’t show up for the scheduled meetings. Following this, his colleagues raised concerns and started searching for him at hospitals. However, while the initial reports came about, many had dismissed it as rumours and refused to believe it. However, more news agencies are reporting that he had passed away.
He has been an integral and famous presence at many editions of the International Film Festival of Kerala, to the point that he is as recognisable as many of our own film directors. While his movies have often been criticised for being “too violent” and filled with “unnecessary gory”, the festival crowd has been very kind to this South Korean director. Festival patrons would often reminisce the difficulties they faced while attempting to see his movies at IFFK since the queues start hours before the movie begins.
“I remember watching his The Net in Ajantha theatre for the festival. The theatre was tightly packed, common for IFFK, but the floors and the sideways had been hijacked by film buffs as if not to miss any chance to see his movies,” said Gokul Krishnan, a student, adding that it was also a very good cinematic experience.
‘Kiduk’ as he is referred to by the IFFK patrons, has also been a prominent face in the city during the festivals. Organisers have had to, on multiple occasions, save the South Korean director from his fans. His name was a brand in the city, and watching his movie at the festival was a rite of passage to many.
“His name is so popular, that a third of the festival-goers are here because of Kim Ki-Duk. I went for IFFK because of the hype that he had generated, and he didn’t disappoint me. I have always enjoyed Korean films, and some of his movies are down to earth and relatable,” says Adeena Regeena, a festival patron and film enthusiast.
Three things attract people to his movies: his name, the sexual overtones and their symbolic meanings, and his use of violence. A fan recalls a very gory experience during the 2013 IFFK, whilst watching Moebius. A particular scene forced a lot of people to throw up inside the venue. He hasn’t forgotten it even after seven years. The scene would later haunt the director as well. The actress in the movie had filed a sexual assault case against him for pressuring her to participate in a sex scene (the aforementioned one) that she hadn’t previously agreed to. Others had also come forward with similar complaints.
Kiduk has had a more personal relationship with Kerala, such that many Keralites had felt that he was one of them. “Kim Ki-Duk’s relation with Kerala has always surprised me. From the moment he lands in Kerala to the moment he leaves, the festival welcomes him as not part of the international community but as a Keralite and as one among us in the festival. A South Korean filmmaker becomes Kerala’s sweetheart, and if his death has hit us hard, then that should indicate how much this man has meant for us,” says Joel Reji John, a Client Account Executive and a Festival patron.
The director, while had been a major part of many international film festivals, had enjoyed a prominent place in Kerala at our very own IFFK. He had been a chief guest in 2013, and since then enjoyed fame and prominence that many of our regional directors rarely had in the festival circle. He had won awards at the Venice and Berlin film festivals for his Samaritan Girls and Pieta. However, in Kerala, he had won the love and admiration of the people, such that they sought him out even outside the festival venues. He will forever be missed but never forgotten.