Low-budget documentary a box office hit in SKorea


June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 25, 2009 at 2:11 PM EDT

A low-budget documentary depicting the strong bond between an aged farmer and his 40-year-old ox has topped box office charts in South Korea, breathing new life into the movie industry.

After being initially released to only seven screens on January 15, "Old Partner" is now being shown at more than 150 cinemas nationwide, with the number of viewers increasing exponentially.

As of Tuesday the number of viewers hit 1.55 million, said film distributor IndieStory.

"It's like a miracle for an indie film to attract so many viewers over so short a period," IndieStory's marketing director Cho Kye-Young told AFP.

Directed by Lee Chung-Ryoul, "Old Partner" captures the bond between the beast and a humble farmer and his feisty wife, as ox and owners wind down their lives together.

Critics say the mystical bond between humans and nature has struck a chord among South Koreans struggling with a severe economic slump.

"The strong bond seen in the movie must have deeply touched the hearts of viewers at a time when selfishness reigns amid financial difficulty," cultural commentator Kim Heon-Sik was quoted as telling the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.

"Old Partner" won the best documentary award at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival and was the first Korean documentary to compete at the US Sundance Film Festival.

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