Historical drama A Taxi Driver has beaten Battleship Island at the box office with a foreign and local total gross of $80 million, compared to the Song Joong-ki’s starrer which had a total gross of $45 million.
The film stars Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer) as Kim Man-seop, a taxi driver who takes a German journalist, played by Thomas Kretschmann, to Gwangju City on the fateful day in May, 1980, so he can broadcast details of the government’s murderous crackdown on a pro-democracy rebellion. After martial law was declared, students took to the streets where a military siege was on.
The movie is based on a true story of a German reporter named Jürgen Hinzpeter who exposed the naked truth of Gwangju Uprising. With the help of a local cab driver, he covers a massive, state-sanctioned massacre against civilians during South Korea’s democratization movement. According to the Hollywood Reporter, while the incident remains a sensitive issue in modern Korean history, it could be noted that A Taxi Driver dealt with the topic with sensitivity as it refrained from making any direct political commentary.
After toppling Battleship Island from the ranks, A Taxi Driver will be representing South Korea in the 2018 Oscar’s best foreign-language film category. This category only allows one entry per country, and while Korean films were submitted for the section every year, none of them made it to the final nominees.
The movie boasts a spectacular lineup, including Thomas Kretschmann and Korea’s prominent actors such as Yoo Hae-jin and Ryu Jun-yeol. The film was directed by Jang Hoon, who previously directed a Korean action movie called The Front Line.
Meanwhile, another film based on some highly sensitive subjects such as the cultural revolution and the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, was called off for screening. According to EJ Insight, Youth, by seasoned movie director Feng Xiaogang, was supposedly set to premiere on September 29, but was called off during the October 1 National Holiday period. It is believed that showing the film might open up old wounds and ruin the current social harmony in the mainland.
This is in sharp contrast with the South Korean film, which may have touched on a political topic, but has now reached a wider global audience. As pointed out by EJ Insight, it greatly indicates a huge difference in the mindsets of Chinese and South Korean leaders when it comes to facing their countries’ unpleasant history.
For A Taxi Driver‘s star, Song Kang-ho in the lead role, this would be his third film to have been chosen as South Korea’s foreign-language Oscar contender, following last year’s The Age of Shadows and 2015’s The Throne.
A Taxi Driver set a box office record for selling 5 million tickets in a week, the shortest time in Korean box office history. It available for streaming on OnDemandKorea.
[Featured Image by Showbox]