Many characters in Netflix sensation Squid Sport are loosely primarily based on its South Korean director’s personal life and he believes its theme of financial inequality has resonated with viewers around the globe.
Hwang Dong-hyuk’s tv debut final month turned the streaming big’s hottest sequence at launch, drawing at the least 111 million watchers.
Its dystopian imaginative and prescient sees a whole lot of marginalised people pitted towards one another in conventional youngsters’s video games — all of which Hwang performed rising up in Seoul.
The victor can earn hundreds of thousands, however dropping gamers are killed.
Hwang’s works have persistently and critically responded to social ills, energy and human struggling, and he primarily based a number of of its extremely flawed but relatable characters on himself.
Like Sang-woo, a troubled funding banker in “Squid Game”, Hwang is a graduate of South Korea’s elite Seoul Nationwide College (SNU) however struggled financially regardless of his diploma.
Like Gi-hun, a laid-off employee and an obsessive gambler, Hwang was raised by a widowed mom and the poor household lived within the type of subterranean semi-basement housing portrayed in Bong Joon-ho’s Oscar-winning satire Parasite.
And it was one in every of his first experiences overseas that impressed him to create Ali, a migrant employee from Pakistan abused and exploited by his Korean employer, he advised AFP.
“Korea is a very competitive society. I was lucky enough to survive the competition and entered a good university,” he mentioned.
“But when I visited the UK at age 24, a white staff member at airport immigration gave me a dismissive look and made discriminatory comments. I find it truly shocking to this day.
“I believe I used to be somebody like Ali again then.”
‘Bottom of the ladder’
Hwang studied journalism at SNU, where he became a pro-democracy activist — and he named the main character in “Squid Sport”, Gi-hun, after a friend and fellow campaigner.
But democracy had been achieved by the time he graduated and he “could not discover a solution to what I ought to do in the true world”.
At first, “watching movies was one thing I did to kill time”, he said, but after he borrowed his mother’s video camera, “I found the enjoyment of filming one thing and screening it for different folks, and it modified my life.”
His first feature-length film, “My Father” (2007) was based on the true story of Aaron Bates, a Korean adoptee whose search for his biological father finally led him to a death row inmate.
In 2011, his crime drama “Silenced” — inspired by a real-life sex abuse case involving children with disabilities — was a commercial hit, as was his 2014 comedy “Miss Granny”, partly inspired by his single mother.
Three years later, critically acclaimed 2017 period drama “The Fortress” dealt with a 17th-century king of Korea’s Joseon dynasty besieged during a brutal Chinese invasion.
“Squid Sport” references several traumatising collective experiences that have shaped the psyche of modern South Koreans, including the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the 2009 layoffs at SsangYong Motor, both of which saw people take their own lives.
“By means of the reference to the SsangYong Motor layoffs, I wished to point out that any abnormal middle-class particular person on this planet we stay in right now can fall to the underside of the financial ladder in a single day,” Hwang told AFP.
‘Absurd, weird and unrealistic’
Jason Bechervaise, a professor at Korea Soongsil Cyber University, described Hwang as an “established and well-regarded filmmaker over 10 years” even before the huge global success of “Squid Sport”.
He “offers with points going through society” at the same time as “discovering methods to entertain his audiences”, he added.
“Hwang is a part of a capitalist system and the success of his sequence means he’s benefiting out of such a system however that does not imply he does not battle with the very nature of it,” he told AFP.
Areum Jeong, a Korean film expert at Sichuan University-Pittsburgh Institute, said the director has a history of sparking social debates before the arrival of the Netflix series.
For one, “Silenced” addressed “injustice, ethical corruption, unresolved points within the Korean justice system, and finally motivated viewers to demand legislative reform”, she told AFP.
Hwang wrote “Squid Sport” about a decade ago, but said investors were reluctant and those who read the script told him it was “too absurd, bizarre, and unrealistic”.
But the rise of streaming services has made age-restricted materials more commercially viable than with cinema audiences, and he returned to the project at the prospect of working with Netflix.
Nonetheless, he never imagined it “would change into the worldwide sensation that it’s now”.
“I believe viewers around the globe deeply relate to the theme of financial inequality” portrayed in Squid Game,” he mentioned, “especially in times of a global pandemic”.