Baek Jaeho’s “We Will Be OK” – 2014 Busan Film Review

A film about a director trying to make a film.  It’s an overused plot device that takes on a greater meaning in “We Will Be OK,” whose actor-turned-director Baek Jaeho plays the character of the director named after himself.  Baek’s fellow cast members also play characters using their real names, and much like what happened in the real-life making of the film, in “We Will Be OK,” the characters decide to try their hand…at creating a film.

The result is a neverending Matroschka doll of life imitating art imitating life, one that has its moments but not necessarily continuous momentum.  Its mood shifts distinctly – and seemingly unintentionally – between three sections.  The first almost feels like a widescreen advertisement of sorts, sprinkled with product placements (yes, in an independent film) that include iPhones, the Korean blog and even the Busan International Film Festival.  It is here that Kim Sangseok, a struggling actor, weaves through the event with dreams of emulating the superstars that grace the red carpet.  In a subtle parallel to the story, there is a moment when Sangseok pauses to consider one of the festival promotional posters for the 2013 Korean film “Rough Play,” a fictional work about an actor who is quickly exposed to the dark side of the entertainment industry.

Following this is a documentary-style take on Sangseok, and fellow struggling actors Baek Jaeho and Kim Taehee.  Jaeho decides to take matters into his own hands and make a movie, but the trio seems to have failed Film School 101, particularly when their lead actress – chosen from a website based on her headshot – learns that the movie will be shot entirely on an iPhone due to budget constraints. Continued struggles lead to a disintegration of the project, which abruptly shifts gears into the third unofficial section.  This focuses on Sangseok as the main character as the film enters much more experimental territory, with Sangseok’s lack of employment up until this point toying with his emotions and psyche.  Even with a tenuous connection to the 2012 Mayan apocalypse that never was, it is here that “We Will Be OK” is at its darkest; one wonders how the film would have fared had it taken on this tone from start to finish.

Screened as part of the New Currents section that features fresh filmmaking talent, it’s clear that “We Will Be OK” is more than a labor of love for Baek, who served as director, producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, supporting actor and editor for his first film.  (The film screens six times during the festival, but Baek even made sure to attend the press screening prior to all the public events.)  With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what Baek can achieve with a larger team and a script that isn’t too close to home.

“We Will Be OK” makes its world premiere at the 2014 Busan International Film Festival.  It will screen Oct. 4, 5, 8 (twice) and 9 (twice).  For more information, go to