09/10/2012, 00.00
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Kim Ki-duk, first Korean to win an award at a European film festival

With the 'Pietà,' the controversial director (who is not popular at home) wins for his country the first of Europe's big three film awards. In it, he shows interest in religion, which he defines however as a "mask behind which nations hide."

Seoul (AsiaNews) - South Korea's movie industry has won its first major European award after Kim Ki-duk won the top prize at the 69th Venice Film Festival, one of the continent's big three movie events (the others are Berlin and Cannes). Kim, who is not popular at home, celebrated his victory by singing his country's best known folk song, Arirang, during the award ceremony.

The movie that earned him the victory is titled 'Pietà.' The movie's poster draws on Michelangelo's statue by the same name. However, the plot is about violence, not religion. A big loan shark does everything to get his money, including torturing his victims, until a woman shows up claiming to be his mother. Then, everything changes.

The director said he chose the title because in today's world, we need pity and understanding. Money is dangerous because of the ways we use it.

This is Kim's third movie with religious overtones. The first one was 'Samaritan Girl,' inspired by the Evangelical story but with a very different plot. The other was 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring,' which takes place in a Buddhist monastery.

In his own life, Kim has been involved with Christianity. After he was educated by Korean Protestants, he wanted to become a pastor in a church for the blind, but was sent away from the seminary. Now, any religious element in his work tends towards self-destruction.

Speaking to a Korean publication dedicated to movies, Kim said after he won the Silver Lion for 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring,' "I see religion as a mask behind which nations hide." Instead, "I want to speak about human nature, about man's thoughts. The most important thing is understanding one another rather than understanding religion."

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