The first Croatian-Korean film and the first Croatian film to feature an Asian actor as the protagonist is set to be released shortly.
Crisis follows the day in the life of 20-something year-old Ji-Hu who is working for his father’s Korean restaurant in Zagreb as the delivery boy during the current global pandemic.
Throughout his delivery runs across Zagreb he will not only have to deal with the constant pressure from his father and an odd variety of customers, but also trying to adjust in a world where he still hasn’t found his place yet.
The lead role in the film, which is directed by Boris Vuković and created and produced by Benjamin Noah Maričak, is played by 22-year-old Seck Zeen Hong, who was born and raised in Croatia.
We caught up with the rising actor in Zagreb.
You were born in Croatia, how did your family end up in Croatia from Korea?
I was born in Karlovac and currently live in Zagreb. My family came to Croatia in 1998. My father Seung Ki Hong received an invitation to lead the Croatian Taekwondo team, and fell in love with Croatia and we have been here ever since.
There are 5 of us in the family, father Seung Ki Hong, mother Mi-Na Hong, sister Yeo Zeen Hong, brother Seck Zoon Hong and me.
How was life growing up in Croatia?
Growing up in Croatia was very interesting to say the least! I can definitely say that I’ve learned a lot from Croats, starting from drinking lots of coffee, just kidding!
Throughout the years I encountered many obstacles and challenges, it was at times very difficult to be different in a foreign country, but as times changed so did the people, who slowly began to adjust.
I finished primary and secondary school in Croatia, and I am currently studying business economics, and I am in my 3rd year.
How was it with the Croatian language, was it difficult learning?
I must admit that Croatian is one of the most complicated languages in Europe, primarily because of the grammar and dialects. However, it wasn’t too difficult to learn because I was always surrounded by many kind people who patiently helped me learn Croatian.
My first language, my mother tongue, is Korean. My parents taught me, so I will not forget it, even though we live in a country that speaks a totally different language. Even now, to this day, I continue studying Korean to prepare for the future. Over the years I learned Croatian and English as well.
What do you enjoy about Zagreb?
There is nothing in Zagreb that isn’t nice and the people are very kind. Each part of the city is filled with cool things and is different in its own way, but if you love nature like me, it’s really fun to walk around park Maksimir, Jarun, Bundek, and I really enjoy going to Sljeme. The views there are stunning, the air is fresh, and the atmosphere is very relaxing.
Do you visit Korea and do you see any similarities between Croatia and Korea?
I didn’t visit South Korea last year because of COVID-19, however I travel to South Korea almost every year. Every time I go to South Korea I am surprised at how fast they are progressing, starting from technology and urbanization.
South Korea and Croatia are very different, starting from their mentality, standard of living, technology, demographics. However, Croatia has the advantage in the fact that they are more relaxed and fun-loving, while in South Korea there is more structure, work and discipline.
How did you first get into acting?
I got my first small role from the director Filip Filković in the short film The Last Well and on the set I met many great Croatian actors such as Alen Liverić, Ozren Grabarić and Mia Biondić. The film was shot in 2017.
You star in the film Crisis – how did you get that role?
First of all, I am very grateful to the creator and producer of Crisis (or Kriza in Croatian) Benjamin Noah Maričak who picked me for the lead role and screenwriter Karla Leko for doing an amazing job in expanding his original concept. Noah and I have known each other for some time before shooting the film. One day he contacted me and asked me if I was willing to act in the first Croatian-Korean film, which would also be his final project at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb.
What can viewers expect from the film?
While watching Crisis viewers can expect something different from your average type of film. As they follow the main character Ji-Hu through his delivery runs they will discover a new side of Zagreb and Croatia that hasn’t been shown yet on screen quite like this. All through the eyes of a young Korean man who wants to study at university, but is stuck helping his father’s business.
They can also expect a multi-layered and emotionally nuanced main character in Ji-Hu, who is struggling to gain his father’s trust, affection and attention. Moreover, viewers can expect a character who struggles with many challenges and odd, at times even awkward, situations that arise throughout the film.
What was it like working with Noah?
Noah is a very creative, ambitious and hardworking individual. He is a person I would love to work with in the future. Filming with him was a really nice experience, especially because Noah is a kind of person that goes by the “creed” – when we’re working, we’re working, and when we’re joking around, we’re joking around. We’ve also been friends for a while, and he really is a person everyone would want as a friend and colleague.
What was the best part about filming?
There was surprisingly no stress acting in front of the camera. The only “drama” that was happening was in front of the camera with my character Ji-Hu, never behind it. One of the most important things for me personally, when working, is the atmosphere and the people that I’m on set with, because everything else comes out of it – so that to me was the best part during filming.
It was a really enjoyable experience working with You Kwang Kim (who plays the father of my character Ji-Hu). I think viewers will see a very interesting dynamic and tension in the film between the father and Ji-Hu. I truly hope Mr. Kim and I will have more collaborations in the future.
Besides that, I appreciated the chance to collaborate, not just with Noah, but also with the director Boris Vuković, cinematographer Marko Milohnić, screenwriter Karla Leko and production designer Cintia Macuka. Of course, one of my favorite parts, was acting on screen with great talents such as You Kwang Kim, Igor Jurinić, Lara Nekić and Fabijan Pavao Medvešek.
Have you had any other roles and what is your background with acting?
I had several roles and appearances including: short film The Last Well, various commercials, music videos, Croatian TV shows Horvatovi and Crno bijeli svijet/Black and white world.
Also, I’ve been working as a profesional freelance model the past 4-5 years. I really enjoy collaborating with various brands, from fashion to lifestyle brands.
Which Croatian actors and directors do you admire?
Actors Alen Liverić, Rene Bitorajac, Goran Navojec, Slavko Sobin and Fabijan Pavao Medvešek are excellent and are on the top of my “list”. Each of them have a lot of charisma and bring something special to each role they play.
Among my favorite Croatian directors are Filip Filković, Boris Vuković, Igor Šeregi, Goran Kulenović….
I really admire the director of Crisis, Boris Vuković, who left a great impression on me. So, when you ask me about Croatian directors, I can confidently say that Boris is one of the best directors in Croatia that I had the pleasure to work with.
What type of films do you like to watch?
Most of the time I like to watch action thriller films. I also enjoy adventure films, psychological thrillers, and comedies.
Will you stay in Croatia – what are your plans for the future?
Croatia is a beautiful country and has a lot of potential. For now, I plan to stay in Croatia, but we’ll see what the future brings. I definitely have future plans that will involve connecting Croatia and South Korea more, given that I know both languages, and I’m familiar with both cultures, mentalities, customs and economies. BTW over 400 thousand Koreans came to Croatia, pre COVID times, mostly due to huge interest that came following Korean TV productions that filmed in Croatia.
Any future ventures in business, sports, culture, fashion, film/TV… between South Korea and Croatia that I can help with/be part of are welcome by me.