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Comedy film ‘Daemuga’ blends Korean shamanism, rap battles

Sept. 28, 2022 - 16:16 By Song Seung-hyun
A scene from “Daemuga” directed by Lee Han-jong (Pan Cinema)

After a beat drops, three participants in colorful clothing begin delivering a rhythmic speech about their lives while breaking out in dance. The crowd surrounding them erupts into cheers when they spit out punchlines.

What looks like an ordinary hip-hop rap battle scene in the upcoming comedy film “Daemuga” is a reinterpretation of “gut,” a special performance by a Korean modern-day shaman to bring back spirits.

“It (shamanism) is a surreal topic and I wanted to depict gut -- a performance to call ghosts -- in a stylish manner and also in my own style,” director Lee Han-jong said during a press conference at Megabox Coex in Seoul Tuesday.

The director said he interviewed experts and shamans to create a balance between an actual performance and his interpretation.

“Through research, I found out that every shaman performs differently. There is a framework but also parts where they feel free to perform as they wish,” he added.

The film also features a unique theme song featuring three popular Korean hip-hop musicians -- MC Meta, Tiger JK and Nucksal.

“I sent a roughly edited version of the movie to the three artists who can represent the three different shamans in their 20s, 30s and 40s. After watching the film, they said they would gladly join the project. They were so passionate,” the director said.

In the movie, Shin Nam (Ryu Gyeong-soo), a young shaman, unexpectedly becomes involved in a mysterious incident related to a woman client (Seo Ji-you) and disappears. Another shaman, Cheongdam Doryong (Yang Hyun-min), begins an investigation to find Shin Nam and discovers that his disappearance is related to an old shaman, Ma Seong-jun (Park Sung-woong), and a criminal gang.

Viewers will be able to relate to many of the issues that "Daemuga" raises, Lee said.

“Instead of depicting shamans with fantasy or science fiction film elements, I used realistic elements because I am more interested in those,” Lee said.


From left: Actors Ryu Gyeong-soo, Seo Ji-you, director Lee Han-jong, actors Park Sung-woong and Yang Hyun-min pose for a photo after a press conference at Megabox Coex in Seoul Tuesday. (Pan Cinema)

For instance, at the beginning of the movie, Shin Nam decides to become a shaman because he is unable to find employment, like many young people today.

“I thought it would be interesting if a young man who is struggling to get a job chooses to go to a hagwon (private educational institutes) to learn to become a shaman,” he said.

Lee’s previous 43-minute short film with the same title was the basis for the feature-length film. Actors Yang Ryu and Seo all appeared in the short film playing the same characters.

The full-length film adds the old shaman character Ma Seong-june and the crime gang boss, played by Jung Kyung-ho.

“About 15 minutes into watching the 40-minute short film, I decided to take the role," said Park who plays Seong-june.

The actor added that he was also surprised to read the script as it seems like a new film genre in itself.

"It ('Daemuga') is like a set menu. It has various snacks and drinks all in it," he said.

The film will hit local theaters on Oct. 12.