Carolyn Talks ‘Escape From Mogadishu’ with Director Ryoo Seung-wan

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Escape from Mogadishu - But Why Tho

In this episode of Carolyn Talk…, I speak with award-winning director Ryoo Sung-Wan about his 2021 film Escape from Mogadishu, and intense action drama about the harrowing escape of South and North Korean diplomats from the city of Mogadishu at the beginning of the Somalian civil war in 1991.

Co-written with Lee Ki-cheol Escape from Mogadishu is based on the book “Escape’ by Kang Shin-sung, who was a diplomat for the South Korean Ambassador to Somalia at the time, and was there during the actual escape. The film stars veteran Korean performers such as Zo In-sung, Kim Yoon-seok, Heo Joon-ho, Park Kyung-hye, and Park Myung-shin as the diplomats, and their family members.

Though there is plenty of action in the film, Ryoo Seung-wan handles the story in such a way that it’s the characters, the people – Korean and Somalian that are the main interest. In the film the two groups of representatives from the two sides of Korea, come to an uneasy alliance as they’re forced to take shelter together. But as they spend more time together, they realize there are more similarities between them as a people, than there are differences.

During our discussion director Ryoo Seung-wan and I spoke about the ways his film shows  the devastating impact war has on children by depicting the trauma inflicted on the children of Somalia by the violence around them. It’s children who suffer the most as they’re caught in the middle of a volatile situation they had no hand in creating, and live with the lifelong effects. We also spoke about him creating specific interactions between the Korean characters as a familial settings, serving as an allegory of how the two sides of Korea were before the separation into North and South, and a vision of what they could be with reunification.

Director Ryoo Seung-wan has enjoyed great success with the films since it’s release at multiple festival screenings including the New York Asian Film Festival where I saw it, and Fantasia Fest. To date he as won multiple awards including the 2021 Blue Dragon Film Award for Best Director, Best Film, and Best Supporting Actor for Heo Joon-ho, and was an official submission for the 2022 Academy Awards.

Thank you to interpreter Sharon Choi who joined us for the interview.

Escape from Mogadishu was released on Blu-ray by Well Go USA, January 18th, 2022.