‘Concrete Utopia’ Interview with Director Um Tae-hwa – Carolyn Hinds

December 16, 2023 | 1071 Visits


Based on the popular webcomic Pleasant Bullying by Kim Soong-nyoong, writer and director Um Tae-hwa’s Concrete Utopia the world seems to have come to its apparent end. Millions in the once densely populated city of Seoul, South Korea’s capital and social centre have been killed in a massive earthquake that decimated the country, and perhaps the world. But strangely amidst the destruction and impending decay, stands Hwang Gung Apartments.

In Hwang Gung Apartments, social collapse has occurred but over time the inhabitants begin to rebuild it one rule at a time but unfortunately not for the better. The residents, wanting a leader, choose Young-tak, an at first unassuming taxi driver played excellently by Lee Byung-hun. As his almost de facto second is Geum-ae (Kim Sun-young), his right-hand man Min-sung (Park Seo-jun), and Min-sung’s wife, a nurse played (Park Bo-young).

In this interview director Um talks about being inspired by the quest for ownership of space and apartments in South Korea, to create a film about social inequality and hierarchy. We spoke about how rather than in a way levelling the playing field, Young-Tak, Geun-ae, and other residents choose to exclude and push out others they now see as beneath them.

These themes that are relatable to anyone anywhere, the terrific performances by the film’s ensemble cast, flawless VFX that create an immersive and frightening new environment for the survivors, and Um’s steady directing make Concrete Utopia a very entertaining watch but one that doesn’t detract from the serious of the subject matter. Because why should class and what floor of a crumpling apartment building you hold onto matter if you lose your humanity in the process.

Follow this link to watch a previously recorded interview with director Um Tae-hwa and Lee Byung-hun which took place during a press junket.

Concrete Utopia is distributed by LOTTE Entertainment and Climax Studio Inc. It was an Official Selection and screened at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Fantasia Fest, and Stiges Orbita festival.

It has its North American theatrical release December 8th, and wide release December 15th.


Carolyn Hinds

Freelance Critic, Journalist & Podcaster
African American Film Critics Association Member, Tomatometer-Approved Critic
Co-Host & Producer So Here’s What Happened! Podcast
Bylines at http://Authory.com/CarolynHinds
Phone: (647)216 – 5283
Twitter & Instagram: @CarrieCnh12

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