Archive of films Fourth Place / Sa deung

South Korea
2015, 119 min

Section: Variety Critics' Choice
Year: 2016

A young athlete has the misfortune to be an excellent swimmer. For the time being, however, he has yet to win a medal, and so the boy’s coach and his mother decide on tough training and physical punishment. Visually polished, the film has a small-scale feel, but underneath, it criticizes a system that primarily praises performance.


Fans of Whiplash will recognize the physical and psychological bruising a young swimmer receives from his coach and mother in order to win a medal in Fourth Place, South Korean director Jung Ji-woo’s poetic and engrossing drama condemning the underlying sadism and psychosis of a competitive educational culture, which destroys children’s talents by denying them their right to do something just for fun. (It’s no coincidence that Jung’s co-producer is the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.) Subverting the feel-good formulas of such popular Korean sports films as Lifting King Kong and Forever the Moment with their “no pain, no gain” philosophy, the film instead highlights how swimming coach Kim Gwang-su (Park Hae-jun) takes out his own frustrations on his young student and repeats the same cycle of violence and bullying – an idea with burning relevance to Asia’s performance-driven culture.

Maggie Lee

About the director

Jung Ji-woo (b. 1968, South Korea) contributed by turns as screenwriter, editor, cinematographer, actor, and director on several short movies (Cliffy, 1994; Grandfather, 1995; A Bit Bitter, 1996) before debuting with the feature title Happy End (Haepi-endeu, 1999), which studies human relationships within South Korea’s strongly patriarchal society. Next came the features Blossom Again (Sarangni, 2005), on relations between a teacher and her students; Modern Boy (Modeon boi, 2008), a drama set during the Japanese colonization of Korea; and a story about an old poet and a young girl in A Muse (Eungyo, 2012), which also serves as a meditation on aging, art, and loneliness; the work was based on the novel of the same name by distinguished author Park Bum-shin. Reviews applaud the director’s ability to intricately and delicately weave the threads of the plot, sensitively delineate the characters, and narrate by means of esthetically exquisite images.


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About the film

Color, Black & White, DCP

Section: Variety Critics' Choice
Director: Jung Ji-woo
Screenplay: Jung Ji-woo, Kim Min-ah
Dir. of Photography: Cho Hyung-rae
Music: Jeong Hyun-soo
Editor: Park Min-sun
Art Director: Byun Ki-yun
Producer: Lee Sang-hyun
Production: National Human Rights Commission of Korea
Coproduction: Jung Ji-woo Film
Cast: Park Hae-jun, Lee Hang-na, Yoo Jae-sang
Sales: Finecut Co., Ltd

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