Spotlight on SXSW SOAK Director HANNAH BANG

When we came across the SXSW selected short film SOAK, directed by Hannah Bang we couldn’t wait to interview her. The film shares a story of a teenage girl dealing with a family break up and its outstanding.

16 year old Yeonsoo Tak meets her mother who ran away, intent on convincing her to return home. However, as the night wears on, Yeonsoo realizes that her mother has hopes of her own, something that had never occurred to Yeonsoo. Stuck between her mother’s new life plans and the pressures from her controlling father, Yeonsoo is faced with an impossible choice.

What inspired you to write the film?

One is my interest in the subject of family relationships and trauma. I think different rules apply within families that don’t apply anywhere else in society. Everything becomes so much more complicated and layered when it happens within a family. So the idea of expressing violence in quiet, unspoken ways within those confines and how that transforms a character really drew me.

Two is I wanted to create female characters whose dynamic with abuse and violence goes beyond that of being one dimensional victims which I think is often the depiction. I’ve seen too many films especially in Korea that utilize the portrayal of an abusive relationship to tell us something about the male character- “look how brutal, or disturbed he is”- and the victim becomes a prop. And when that’s not the case, the victims are idealized heroins for enduring/surviving the abuse (especially mothers). I was attempting to carve out some dimensionality and find room in between for characters with more contradictions. The context of a family also provided a fertile background for that. 

Was the films subject based on personal experience?

No, it isn’t. But I’d like to think I understand Yeonsoo enough based on my experiences.

Your young lead actress is fantastic, how did you know she was right or the role?

Yeah, Do Eun is amazing. We posted our casting call while I was in LA and she was one of the first actors whose profile I saw for the role of Yeonsoo. This might sound cliche but I had a feeling from the moment I saw her photo and work samples. I remember immediately showing her stuff to my producer because I was so excited about her. So I was just praying that she would show up to the audition a few weeks later when I was in Korea. There’s a sense of guardedness about her that comes and goes which was perfect for the role of Yeonsoo- she almost came pre packaged for the role, I don’t think I gave her much direction at all.

Congrats on getting your world premiere at SXSW, what does this mean for you?

It’s a gift to have this opportunity during the pandemic. There were many hurdles my team and I had to jump over to get here, so I hope my actors and crew feel like the hard work paid off. And the other hope is that it becomes a stepping stone for me to make more work in the future. 

What are you hoping that audiences will take away from the film?

Just because you force back the pieces of something broken, doesn’t mean you can make the broken thing whole. But sometimes we can’t help but try anyway. I hope they can walk through the night in Yeonsoo’s shoes, and find a way to empathize with the choice she makes. Not agree with, but understand what led her there.

What interested you to get into filmmaking?

Watching films was what I did in my free time growing up, so from around the time that I realized that the job of a film director was a thing, it’s something I’ve wanted to do. It just took a while for me to start- I don’t think I really knew how to make movies until I came to LA. Growing up in Korea, the focus of my day-to-day was very much on academics. However, I did carry around a camcorder in high school and would shoot little shorts with my friends. 

What is next for you?

Currently I’m spending the majority of my time writing the feature films that I would like to get made. Although it is a different story, one of them shares similarities with Soak in that it is a coming of age drama mixed with elements of psychological horror.  

How do out audience keep in touch with your work? 

I’m pretty awkward with social media but I’m realizing it can be a useful tool to connect with people. So I’ve been trying to get a better handle on it- pun! – , I’m turning my instagram into my portfolio so I’ll be posting my latest works there.

Director’s Instagram: @thehannahbang

Film Instagram: @soakfilm

Film Website:

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