'The Point Men' models understanding despite differences

Actors Hwang Jung-min, left, and Hyun Bin, right, in "The Point Men" [MEGABOX]

Through a story about a diplomat and an intelligence officer fighting to save Korean nationals in Afghanistan, director Yim Soon-rye wanted to show how we can understand other cultures and belief systems, in her new movie "The Point Men,” which opened in theaters on Jan. 18.

In a roundtable interview held in Jung District, central Seoul, on Jan. 16, Yim talked candidly about the studies she conducted to learn about Afghan culture and the Pashto language, and how she wanted to pose tough questions regarding the role of a nation state and a country's responsibility for its nationals.

“I studied a lot about the Muslim religion and the history of Afghanistan,” said Yim. “I looked into how the Taliban came to yield so much influence over the region, and how there is a divide between the Afghan government and the Taliban because of the way each group is led by different tribes speaking different languages, and the way the religious practices in Afghanistan are held. It was a difficult but enduring process of learning.”

Director Yim Soon-rye [MEGABOX]

Yim said that she and the production team were helped by a consultant group that taught them about the culture of Afghanistan and the Pashto language.

“I couldn’t learn the language itself, since it’s incredibly difficult for us Koreans and a very complex language,” said Yim. “But I tried to familiarize myself with the language as best as I could and watched a lot of video content on YouTube to be able to choreograph the religious dances that the Afghan and Muslim people practice.”

“The Point Men” is mainly about two people, Park Dae-sik and Jung Jae-ho, played by Hyun Bin and Hwang Jung-min, who have to settle their differences and learn to respect each other and work together in order to save 23 Korean hostages held by the Taliban. Yim says that she wanted to raise questions about the role of a nation state and its responsibility for its people through the film.

“I don’t have the answers, but I wanted to ask — how far can a country go to save its nationals from an impossible situation, and how much responsibility can a nation take for the actions of individuals?” said Yim. “And I didn’t want to place blame on the individual hostages that get abducted by the Taliban. That wasn’t the central question or theme of our film. I wanted to ask to what lengths a nation can go to save its own people, and how that could play out in this setting.”

Actors Hwang Jung-min and Hyun Bin in "The Point Men" [MEGABOX]

Although “The Point Men” draws inspiration from a real-life story of Koreans who were taken hostage by the Taliban back in 2007, director Yim said that the plotline and characters in the film are purely fictional.

“Park Dae-sik and Jung Jae-ho are not real-life characters,” said Yim. “They are a fictional creation and should be viewed as such.”

Yim also said that the way in which Park and Jung begin to cooperate with each other after getting off to a rough start riddled with misunderstandings shows the general discrepancy between those who work on the ground, so to speak, and those who command orders from up top.

Actor Hyun Bin, center, in "The Point Men" [MEGABOX]

“Park is an intelligence officer working in Islamic countries, and Jung is someone who is used to an office setting working for the Foreign Ministry of Korea,” said Yim. “They start off not understanding each other because they come from different backgrounds. But after an event in the film when Jung sees Park’s genuine intentions and efforts to rescue the hostages, they begin to see eye to eye and respect each other. That’s an important element of the film.”

The director also noted how “The Point Men” is a breakthrough in her own career, since she is widely known as an indie film director — this movie is a blockbuster film aimed for the Lunar New Year holiday season.

Actor Hwang Jung-min in "The Point Men" [MEGABOX]

“'The Point Men' is a different kind of film than my previous ones,” said Yim. “I wanted to make a film that asks, are our own ideologies and beliefs always correct? What is the right path to take when faced with differences? And these questions are very hard questions, ones we all need to think about. ‘The Point Men’ addresses them, I hope, and also includes some entertaining bits that will capture the audience.”