LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has been denied a visa to shoot his magnum opus movie Who Is God in China. Kim and the film look to be high profile victims of the ongoing geopolitical dispute between South Korea and China over missiles.
"Kim Ki-duk has been only granted a tourist visa for one month, while we applied for a work visa for three months," producer Julia Zhang told Variety by email. "We haven't been given any official explanation for this yet. We suspect that this has to do with the situation faced by many Korean artists who work with China at this moment. If this situation won't change within short term, this means indeed that Mr. Kim won't able to work as director of Who Is God."
The project is a large canvas treatise on war and peace and the Buddhist religion, that the South Korean maverick has been trying to mount for most of the past decade. It would have been by far Kim's biggest budget movie to date, with a production cost three times greater than the combined budget of all his films to date. It is set to be produced by Hangzhou-based Film Carnival International, with Dick Cook Studios, the film arm of former Disney boss Dick Cook, assisting in pre-production, post-production and international marketing.
Watch Kim Ki-Duk's '3-Iron' at SBS on Demand
Kim, who is currently at the Venice Film Festival, is now openly discussing radical contingency plans. "I've recently been flying back and forth since last year. I am to start shooting in October, but suddenly there's a work visa problem. I don't know the definite reason. The approval process seems to have become more complicated," Kim told Korean-language film publication Cine 21. "If it doesn't work out, I may make the film as 'executive artistic director,' meaning that I may have a person in China and direct that person in detail from Korea."
Zhang confirmed: "(Kim) will remain the screen writer and be the executive artistic director of the film. We are looking for solutions with our partners in Hollywood to start the shooting as planned."
Producers had been in advanced negotiations with Liu Yifei to star, and with Yuen Woo-ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) to oversee action sequences. An October start date has been scheduled.
Watch Kim Ki-Duk's 'Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring' at SBS on Demand
The South Korean and Chinese governments have been embroiled in a war of words for the past month since South Korea said that it would instal THAAD, a U.S.-made missile system. Reprisals appear to have been taken against two of South Korea's biggest export industries, entertainment and cosmetics, which have large markets in China. In the past weeks a growing number of film and TV productions have either had permits denied or delayed. The ban is now understood to operate against South Korean talent, South Korea-China co-productions and Korean finance in Chinese entertainment products.
Kim's latest film The Net had its first press and industry screening in Venice in Wednesday. He is due to hold a press conference for that film on the Lido on Thursday.
Watch Kim Ki-Duk's 'Samaritan Girl' at SBS on Demand