INTERVIEW: SHIM SUNG BO ON CUTTING THROUGH THE HAZE WITH “HAEMOO”
The co-writer of “Memories of Murder” on his thrilling seafaring debut.
by Stephen Saito
It speaks to the quality of “Haemoo” that when Shim Sung-bo reflects on what was the most difficult day of filming the technically complex high seas thriller about a fishing crew that attempts to smuggle a group of Korean immigrants back from China, it wasn’t the physical challenge of shooting one of the film’s harrowing action sequences that got to the director. It was how it could be as emotionally devastating as possible that he took great pains to get right.
“The most difficult moment was the last scene because we had to shoot it earlier [than expected] because of our production schedule,” says Shim, speaking through a translator as the film made its Los Angeles premiere at the AFI Fest. “I had to make some different choices than was originally written on the scenario, [and] doing that first, without going through all the other transitional parts, was hard.”
You wouldn’t know it from the final film, which exudes a confidence from start to finish that would hardly suggest Shim was a first-time director. Then again, he’s been waiting for this opportunity for over a decade since he first made a name for himself internationally as the co-writer of Bong Joon-ho’s breakthrough sophomore feature “Memories of Murder.” To return the favor, Bong helped Shim produce “Haemoo,” which like the “Snowpiercer” director’s work combines the exhilarating highs of well-crafted action and suspense with a social consciousness that makes every twist and turn feel like a punch to the gut.