Korean Gay-Themed King and the Clown Submitted to Oscars

Kingandclown_1_1South Korea has chosen the gay-themed The King & The Clown as its official submission for Best foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards:

“Lee Jun-Ik’s film about an effeminate male clown caught between the affections of a 16th-century tyrannical king and the love of a fellow performer, became the unexpected all-time highest-grossing film in the republic early this year – it was reported that one in four South Koreans saw it in cinemas.”

The King & The Clown received much hype last year not only because of its high box office but because its gay theme is something of an anomaly in Asian cinema. Gay Korean actor Hong Suk-Chun was quoted as saying, “While I was sitting in the theater, I thought, Oh, my god, director Lee, thank you so much.”

And because it came out shortly following the massive attention that greeted the success of Brokeback Mountain, many in the media compared it to that. However, one Towleroad commenter responded that those comparisons are unwarranted:

“As an expat living in Korea for my 5th year, partnered with a Korean and on a first name basis with Hong Sukchun, I feel like I really should comment…the attention ‘The King and His Clown’ is getting as this ‘gay’ movie is misplaced. I’ve seen the movie and it’s beautiful and really interesting but unfortunately NOT a gay movie. Based on a true story, King Yongun does a number of violent and bizarre actions. Watch the movie to learn about Korean history and culture. But if you watch it hoping to see the Korean version of Brokeback Mountain, take it from me, you’ll be sorely disappointed.”


  1. nelson says

    This is the second Asian gay film submitted for the Oscars for the Best Foreign Language Film, after Philippines announced The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros as its official entry for the Oscars.

    Opens September 22 in NYC
    Cinema Village, Manhattan

    September 29 in LA
    Regent Showcase La Brea

    San Francisco and other cities to follow through Oct./Nov.

    About the film

    Winner of the International Jury Prize and two other major awards (both Children’s Jury Prize and the Teddy as Best Gay Film)
    at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS (ANG PAGDADALAGA NI MAXIMO
    OLIVEROS) will make its US theatrical debut Sept. 22 in NYC and the following week in LA.

    An official selection at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it had its U.S. premiere, and at the New Directors/New Films
    Festival in New York, where it was an opening night selection, the film marks the debut feature of Filipino filmmaker Auraeus
    Solito. With over a dozen awards, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS is one of the most internationally-acclaimed Filipino films in a long while.

    Distributed by Unitel Pictures, “MAXIMO” is a lighthearted drama about the purity of first love, pitted against the squalor and corruption in the slums of contemporary Manila where the film is set.

    Gay, pre-teen Maxi is deeply and uncomplainingly devoted to his family of petty thieves. He cleans house for them, cooks for
    them, washes their underwear, mends their tattered jeans, and when necessary, covers their tracks. His world revolves around
    his father and his two brothers, who love and protect him in return. Until Maxi meets Victor, an honest, well-meaning and
    handsome policeman. The two become fast friends. Victor inspires Maxi to hope for a better life, which soon incurs the ire
    and disapproval of Maxi’s family.

    Nathan Lopez stars as “Maxi” in his first role which won him the Best Actor prize at the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Film Festival
    in Spain, where the film also took prizes for Best Picture as well as its Audience Award. Its other honors include Best First Film at
    the Montreal World Film Festival and the Netpac Jury Prize at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

    THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS, a film by Auraeus Solito

    WINNER International Jury Grand Prize for Best Feature Kinderfilmfest, Berlinale 2006
    WINNER Teddy Bear for Best Feature Berlinale 2006
    WINNER Children’s Jury Special Mention Kinderfilmfest, Berlinale 2006
    WINNER Grand Prize, Best Picture Cine Festival Las Palmas, Grand Canary Islands, Spain, 2006
    WINNER Best Actor (Nathan Lopez) Cine Festival Las Palmas, Grand Canary Islands, Spain, 2006
    WINNER Audience Award for Best Picture Cine Festival Las Palmas, Grand Canary Islands, Spain, 2006
    WINNER Best Picture – Turin International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival 2006
    WINNER Best Film – Asian 1st Films Festival, Singapore, 2006
    WINNER Best Asian Film, NETPAC Jury Award – Rotterdam Film Festival 2006
    WINNER Best Picture – imagineNative Film Fest (Toronto) 2005
    WINNER Golden Zenith Award (Best First Feature) – Montreal World Film Festival, 2005
    WINNER Special Jury Prize and Balanghai Trophy for Production Design, Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 2005,

    World Cinema Section Sundance 2006
    MoMA and Lincoln Center’s New Directors/New Films (Opening Night)
    Rotterdam, Montreal World Film Festival, Torino Gay Film Festival, Hong Kong Film Festival, Singapore Asian 1st Films Festival, San
    Francisco International Film Festival, VC Filmfest, Message Sticks (Opening Night), Brisbane, Melbourne, Taipei Intl. Film Festival,
    Seattle Intl. Film Festival, Osian CineFan, Jerusalem Cinematheque, Santiago II International Film Festival Chile, Tokyo Filmex, Vancouver Intl. Film Festival

    “One of the finest Filipino films ever!” – Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times

    “A buoyant and endearing film!” – Dennis Lim, Village Voice

    “Heartbreaking and universal! Forget ‘Brokeback’–this film is the real thing!” – Armond White, New York Press

    “A colorful and exotic portrait of a young man’s sexual awakening!” – Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

  2. BC says

    As a Korean(living in Seoul), I’m quite surprised to find this article here.
    I totally understand where that comment is coming from. Well, actually it depends on what a ‘gay film’ is, but the film is surely ‘gay themed’ though, with the kiss and all. I think it leaves much room for the audience. It can be construed in various ways, I guess.
    With all the hype and record-breaking and stuff, I was really glad but also kind of
    worried. One of the character is overly effeminated, which made the film a lot less appalling to most of Koreans(which made the success possible, obviously). I think the film sort of reinforced this boy-girl role-playing stereotype which is quite absurd.
    With strong Confucian traditions and under Christian influence, we definitely have a long way to go.
    Still, South Korea is largely exposed to overall US media, culture and everything, so as long as US keep stepping ‘forward’, I guess things would turn out right, eventually.

    By the way I honestly love this blog, this is like an open window to a whole wide new world to me. I sincerely thank Andy for all the work. Best Wishes.

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