Director Kang Je-gyu's "Road to Boston" depicts the obstacle-laden path for Korean marathoners to participate in the 1947 Boston Marathon, but the film's journey to the screen was just as arduous.
The film wrapped up shooting in January 2020, but Kang had to wait three years and eight months to see the film open in theaters.
“It was hard, to be honest,” Kang told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on Sept. 12.
“Back then, I was expecting the film to be released in 2021. But the pandemic showed no sign of abating. What’s even worse, actor Bae Sung-woo (who plays Nam Seung-ryong) was caught drunk driving. I had to once again delay the film’s release,” said Kang.
Although it was the first time ever that Kang had to wait so long for the film's release post-completion, he described the wait as “worthwhile.” He said he held four rounds of internal screenings to hear feedback and edit.
“It wasn't just me, but the entire staff had to endure that time,” said Kang.
“Each of these marathoners’ lives can be made into three separate films -- their lives and achievements are that great. It was a great happiness and blessing for me to be able to make their lives into one film, thanks to the Boston Marathon."
While Kang is touted as a figure who led Korea's cinematic renaissance, with many of his previous works like “Swiri” (1999) and “Taegukgi” (2004) earning critical acclaim for capturing Korea's unique mood of melancholy and sadness, they have also been called "gukbbong," a word often used pejoratively to describe overtly patriotic sentiments.
“Even from my point of view, my films are really 'gukbbong,'” he said, laughing.
“But this film is based on a true event. If it’s fiction, I could have changed the story line. But I couldn’t, because it was a real life story. So over the three year period, I continuously asked my staff and editing team over and over whether the film was too much,” said Kang.
When asked if he would call “Road to Boston” a "gukbbong" film, he admitted that part of it is.
“It’s hard to separate and define which are good or bad 'gukbbong' films. But my film is a different kind of 'gukbbong' film,” Kang said.
“Road to Boston” opens in theaters on Sept. 27.