Korean Drama Obsession Explored in Anthony Chen-Produced ‘Ajoomma’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Production has wrapped on the long-gestating “Ajoomma,” a feature film that delves into the fascination that Korean pop culture holds for middle-aged women in Asia.

The story, said to be based on the mother of director He Shuming, involves a K-drama-obsessed widow from Singapore who tries to find new purpose in life and instead ends up getting lost in Korea. The script was co-written by He and Kris Ong.

” ‘Ajoomma’ very nicely touches upon a phenomenon that has been taking place across Asia for over a decade – the fascination of middle-aged women across the region with South Korean culture and media,” Chen told Variety. “Now K-drama and culture has literally exploded all over the world.”

“Ajoomma” filmed principally in Seoul, Korea, at the beginning of the year and has now completed its final leg of production in Singapore. Post-prod has begun, putting the film on course for a delivery in the autumn.

The film stars Singapore veteran actress Hong Huifang (“The Price of Peace,” “Recipe of Life”) in her first leading role on the big screen. She is joined by Korean actors Jung Dong-hwan (“Mine,” “Hotel del Luna”), Kang Hyung Suk (“Hometown Cha-Cha-Cha,” “Crash Landing on You”). Korean star Yeo Jingoo (“Hotel del Luna,” “Beyond Evil”) makes a guest appearance as himself. And Singaporean actor Shane Pow rounds out the cast.

The film is produced by Singaporean director-producer Anthony Chen’s Giraffe Pictures and Korea’s Lee Joonhan. It is supported by Singapore Film Commission and National Arts Council in Singapore and the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) and Seoul Film Commission in Korea.

No sales agent has yet been appointed. “We will explore that in due course,” Chen said.

The project is familiar to many on the Asian film festival and project market circuit. It previously earned: the most promising project award at the Singapore International Film Festival’s Southeast Asian Film Lab; the SEAFIC Award at the SEAFIC Lab in 2018; and the best co-production award at the IFFAM Macao Project Market in 2018, when it reported a production budget of $1.1 million. “Ajoomma” also received a production grant in 2019 from Thailand’s Purin Pictures.

The film is the feature film debut of He. A writer-director, he studied at The Puttnam School of Film and Animation in Singapore and the American Film Institute Conservatory in Los Angeles. His short documentary “Letters From The Motherland,” was part of the “667” omnibus film which premiered internationally at the Busan festival in 2017.

London-based Chen won the Camera d’Or for best debut film at Cannes in 2013 with “Ilo Ilo.” His second film as director “Wet Season,” debuted at the Toronto festival in 2019. He is now reported to be attached to direct an Amazon-backed series adaptation of “Secret Daughter,” with Priyanka Chora-Jonas and Sienna Miller to star.

Giraffe Pictures’ past productions include omnibus “Distance,” which opened the 2015 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and “Pop Aye” which won at Sundance and Rotterdam. The company’s upcoming slate includes Thai director Sorayos Prapapan’s debut feature “Arnold Is A Model Student,” Indonesian director Mouly Surya’s “This City Is A Battlefield” and Filipino director Petersen Vargas’ second film “Some Nights I Feel Like Walking.”

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