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[New on the scene] Director Kim Se-hwi captures dark side of social media in thriller

By Kim Da-sol

Published : May 13, 2024 - 11:51

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Director Kim Se-hwi of “Following” (Content Zio) Director Kim Se-hwi of “Following” (Content Zio)

While people’s obsession and dependence on social media services have only grown stronger in recent years, social media use can be a double-edged sword. It can be a tool used to gain important information and spread useful tips, or it can be a means to stalk people or even plot a crime.

In director Kim Se-hwi’s debut film, “Following,” a real estate agent named Gu Jeong-tae (Byun Yo-han) has a strange if not perverse habit of peeping into other people’s lives. Whether it’s a person living next door or a client he meets in his office, Jeong-tae thinks nothing is wrong with his secretive life as a voyeur.

Then he comes across a social media influencer called Han So-ra (Shin Hae-sun), who lives an fake life in cyberspace. Seeking attention online, she adopts dogs and saves stray cats and uploads the photos to her account, but that’s all part of her facade.

Actors Byun Yo-han (left) and Shin Hae-sun star in “Following” (Content Zio) Actors Byun Yo-han (left) and Shin Hae-sun star in “Following” (Content Zio)

Director Kim said she came up with the storyline based on her interests at the time of writing the scenario.

“Just like other ordinary people in their early 30s, I was an active user of social media, looking into other people’s accounts. I used my secondary account to have a look at my ex-boyfriend’s account, you know, ‘utilizing’ social media in that way,” Kim told The Korea Herald in an interview in Seoul on May 9.

“I tried to put the quirks of social media into a movie, maximizing the mystery thriller genre's uniqueness,” Kim added.

All characters in the film have been negatively impacted by social media.

Not just social media influencer So-ra, but her stalker Jong-hak (Yoon Byung-hee) and her friend Horugi (Park Ye-ni), a BJ or broadcast jockey who streams her own shows online, live a life that’s completely driven by what they see on social media.

On top of the director’s clever and creative depiction of the dark side of social media, the speed at which the story is told in the 103-minute running time makes for a gripping film.

“Today's generation is very accustomed to short-form content. So I decided to go with speed (in the beginning) when Jeong-tae explains himself through a narration from a first-person point of view. I can say that the movie doesn’t start until Jeong-tae and So-ra meet. So I tried to minimize the charms of Jeong-tae (early in the movie),” said Kim.

“It also gets very dangerous when the movie shows Jeong-tae as an attractive person because that may glamourize what he is doing as a voyeur,” she added.

Byun Yo-han stars in “Following” (Content Zio) Byun Yo-han stars in “Following” (Content Zio)

Having worked as a scriptwriter for the past 11 years, she said releasing a movie feels like freeing a stray cat she has been temporarily protecting for many years.

Although "Following’" is a small-budget film with a budget of 4 billion won ($2.9 million) and a breakeven point at 1.5 million admissions, she said she feels a lot of burden.

“I hope my kitten is loved, but you never know,” she said.

“Following” hits local theaters on May 15.

This article is the 20th in a series that introduces Korea’s new and emerging actors and directors. -- Ed.