Singer-turned-actress Jang Na-ra’s nomination for Best Actress at the upcoming Daejong (Grand Bell) Film Festival, the country’s most prestigious film awards, has sparked a stormy debate.
The festival’s nomination of Jang for Korea’s equivalent of the Oscars was met with surprise by many as her film “The Sky and the Sea,” in which she plays the role of an autistic musician, has yet to be released in theaters. Meanwhile, popular actress Ha Ji-won was excluded from the nomination list despite receiving critical acclaim for roles in two headline-making films this year ― “Haeundae,” a tsunami blockbuster that became one of the highest grossing films in Korean box office history, and “Closer to Heaven,” a tearjerker melodrama that also garnered much attention.
In response to public criticism, the festival issued a press release Thursday explaining the circumstances. “The Sky and the Sea was completed within the designated time period to be considered for the awards,” the release said. “Well-made films featuring fine acting can be submitted for judgment and are eligible for nomination, even if they have not yet hit theaters.”
Concerning Ha’s exclusion from the nomination list, the festival said that “although she delivered good performances in ‘Haeundae’ and ‘Closer to Heaven’ the vote was split among judges” ― meaning that when an actor appears in more than one film in a pool of works submitted for nomination, votes are often split because nominations for best actor/actress are made according to his/her role in a particular film.
Ha Defends Jury
Furthermore, the festival stressed that both Jang and Ha are talented actresses and questioning the confidence of festival will only hurt the local film industry.
Ha expressed her faith in Daejong and its fairness in judgment through an official statement via management agency Wellmade Star M, saying “I do not have an inch of doubt concerning Daejong’s fairness.”
“I am truly happy and thankful for all the love and attention I received this year. For each piece I work on, I always think of my shortcomings and only try my best. As an actor, being loved by the audience gives me the greatest pleasure and pride. But I do not perform roles with an award in mind, and I don’t think other actors do either,” she said.
“Another actor has been hurt due to recent controversies over the nominations, and I deeply emphasize with my fellow actor. I hope the negative comments will stop,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jang makes a comeback on the local screen after long hiatus. She had been based mainly in China with stints in singing and acting. She was chosen as “the hottest actress of 2006” in a survey conducted by a Chinese broadcasting company over stars such as Gong Li.
Before moving to China, the 28-year-old starred in several hit Korean TV soaps including “Success Story of a Bright Girl” (SBS, 2002). “The Sky and the Sea” is due in theaters on Oct. 28. (Korea Times)