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[Herald Interview] Bae Doo-na wants to spread social message through her film

Feb. 6, 2023 - 12:56 By Kim Da-sol

Bae Doo-na. (Twin Plus Partners)

After 25 years of acting, Bae Doo-na doesn’t want her real personality off camera to be too distinctive -- it may influence how the audiences view the characters she plays.

Rather than drawing attention to herself, she wants to spread messages on social issues through her work.

“Next Sohee” is based on a true event. It is about a 2017 incident in which a high school student took her own life after taking a grueling job training program at a call center. Bae plays a detective in pursuit of the truth behind the girl's death.

The film, prior to local release set for Feb. 8, premiered during Cannes Film Festival in May as the closing film of the festival’s parallel sidebar, Critics’ Week.

“I was really curious how the international audience would react to our story. But I believed that our movie is not just about South Korean society. It has a universal theme that transcends generations and countries -- anywhere where a system of capitalism exists,” Bae told reporters during an interview held in Seoul on Thursday.

She could not travel to Cannes as she was then shooting the Netflix film “Rebel Moon” in the US.

“Next Sohee” is Bae’s second project with director Jung Ju-ri in eight years. The two worked together on “A Girl at My Door” (2014), which centers around a middle school student Do-hee in a small town who is abused by her stepfather and bullied at school. Bae stars as chief of a police station. The film was invited to the Un Certain Regard selection of the 67th Cannes Film Festival that year.

Bae said she is always fascinated by how director Jung bluntly but calmly depicts stories of socially alienated people.

“Her way of portraying such stories is very detailed and straightforward. It is easy to follow. After receiving a call from Jung after almost 8 years, I was delighted not only because she had not forgotten me, but also because she was still very interested in social issues,” Bae said, adding, “She is very sharp when writing such stories.”

As soon as she finished reading the story, Bae thought she must do this project.

“I have genuine concerns about teenagers, or I’m just too interested in what others do. I’m really interested in teenagers’ stories, their lives and things that need to be improved concerning them. So if there is an opportunity to depict their stories, I tend to participate in such projects,” she said.

Bae said she wants her films to convey a social message, believing in the power of cinema to create awareness.

“I believe that films can have a positive influence on society. I might be a bit naive, but I think films make the world a better place to live in and that more people will know about social issues if I tell important stories through films,” she said.

“‘Next Sohee’ is not a film that just throws a strong message to society, forcing people to make changes. It’s a film that makes people realize what is wrong and what should be changed,” she added.

When asked if her frequent appearances as a detective or a cop in films and TV dramas has to do with her desire to speak on social issues, Bae shyly nodded, saying, “Yeah, maybe.”

Bae said now she wants to make herself a brighter person, portraying happier stories of hope on the screen.

“While shooting or on set, I easily get out of the character I play, so I laugh and joke with others as soon as I hear ‘okay’ from the director. Also, because I participate in so many projects one after another, I thought playing dark, depressing characters wouldn’t really bother me. But after so many years, now I really want to smile,” she said.

“I really want to do a comedy. Let me know if you know a good comedy film script,” she joked.

“Next Sohee” is set to open in theaters in Korea on Feb. 8.

Bae Doo-na stars in “Next Sohee.” (Twin Plus Partners)
Bae Doo-na stars in “Next Sohee.” (Twin Plus Partners)