South Korea has joined the race for the Best International Feature Film honour at the 96th Academy Awards, the Oscars 2024, by picking the disaster action film Concrete Utopia as its official entry.
The decision was taken by the state-sponsored Korean Film Council (KOFIC) in a meeting held on 17 August.
Concrete Utopia was picked unanimously by a seven-judge panel that indicated in a statement that the film’s plot is in line with the ongoing debates around recession and global warming.
A 15-film shortlist for the Best International Feature Film category will be announced on 21 December 2023, with the final nominees set to be revealed on January 23, 2024. The 96th Academy Awards will be held on March 10, 2024.
All about Concrete Utopia and its Oscar 2024 race
Concrete Utopia plot
Set in modern-day Seoul, Concrete Utopia is about a group of survivors in a single building after almost the entire city is flattened by a powerful earthquake.
The building, named Hwang Goong Apartments (or Imperial Palace Apartment), becomes a refuge for survivors from around the city. This leads to a tense standoff with those already inside and would go to any length to prevent the outsiders from entering.
The KOFIC panel underlined that the strength of Concrete Utopia is that it “features ordinary people who want to survive, not heroes”.
Concrete Utopia cast and crew
It is the second film by director Um Tae-hwa, the older brother of actor Uhm Tae-goo.
Um Tae-hwa’s first film was Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned (2016), which earned him the Best New Director award at the 54th Grand Bell Awards in 2017, among other accolades.
The film stars South Korean acting great Lee Byung-hun, who is widely known to international audiences as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe film series and as the Front Man from Squid Game (2021).
Lee is joined by Park Seo-joon and Park Bo-young, both of whom are famous K-drama stars.
What is the box office performance of Concrete Utopia?
Concrete Utopia was released in theatres on August 9. By August 15, it dethroned summer blockbuster Smugglers to top the ticket sales with two million moviegoers watching it.
According to Variety, its total earnings in the first eight days since its release was around USD 16.2 million.
On the day when KOFIC made the announcement of its Oscar selection, Lotte Entertainment confirmed that the film has been invited to attend the Gala Presentation section at the 48th Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) from September 7 to 17 in Toronto.
Which other Korean films have been to the Oscars?
Concrete Utopia is the latest in more than 30 South Korean films to have been submitted in the race for Oscar for Best International Feature in the country’s history.
But to date, only three of them have been shortlisted before the final five nominations — Lee Chang-dong’s Burning in 2018, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite in 2019, and Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave in 2022.
Of the three, Parasite is the only South Korean film to have been nominated among the final five in the category and won it.
(Hero and Featured images: IMDb)
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Hong Kong.