TEST YOURSELF: Double agent drama

Photo courtesy of HBO
Photo courtesy of HBO

New spy drama The Sympathizer is worth watching

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Read the following story by Tatat Bunnag from the Bangkok Post. Then, answer the questions that follow.

The seven-episode series The Sympathizer recently dropped on HBO GO. Created by Park Chan-wook, the South Korean filmmaker of Oldboy and The Handmaiden fame, and produced by Robert Downey Jr, The Sympathizer is a spy thriller and war drama and episodes will be released weekly until the end of May.

Based on Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Sympathizer follows the struggles of half-French, half-Vietnamese "Captain" during the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The Captain ends up in a US refugee camp. However, while enjoying his new life in Los Angeles, he soon learns that his spying days aren't over. The Sympathizer also stars Downey Jr, who plays multiple roles in the show.

While most scenes are set in Vietnam, they were actually filmed in Bangkok. We were invited to visit the film set a few months back and had the chance to sit down and talk with Park, who served as a co-showrunner and also directed episodes 1-3 of the show.

Why did you get involved in this project?

I got involved because of the relationship between Korea and Vietnam, and because we were also involved in the Vietnam War. And then Korea was divided into North and South, and we had a civil war. I felt this was something I could relate to and handle well. Also, the original novel has a spy thriller element, which is one of my favourite genres.

Do you have any personal memories related to the Vietnam War?

Of course. My father was a soldier in the war. Though he was not in battle as he was a professor at a military training academy, I still remember the photographs he took at the Korean military camp.

What made you decide to turn the original story into a miniseries instead of a feature film?

We didn't plan out in advance if we wanted to do a film or TV series. The important element was what kind of story we want to tell. We came to a conclusion that a two-hour feature film would be too short.

What was it like to work with Robert Downey Jr on this project?

The main issue we had was probably the language barrier, but regardless of whether we are from different places, as filmmakers, I believe we speak the same language. So in terms of communicating with Robert, of course there was translator that I had to speak through.

Section 1: Write the correct answer in the space provided.

1. Where is Park from? …………….

2. Who wrote The Sympathizer? …………….

3. What nationality is the Captain? …………….

4. Where did the Captain live in the US? …………….

5. How many episodes does Park direct? …………..

6. What was Park’s father’s job in the war? …………….

Section 2: Read the following passage. Then, fill in the blanks with the correct words from the choices given.

…7…, I hadn't read the novel …8… working on this project. The …9… novel had been translated into Korean but I never had a …10… to read it. It's only after the producer proposed this project to me that I read it.

7. A. Unfortunate  B. Lucky C. Unfortunately

8. A. yet B. before C. so far

9 A. origin B. original C. originally

10. A. luck B. chance C. lucky

Section 3: Find words that match the following definitions.

11. a person who secretly collects and reports information ……………

12. a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war ……………

13. categories of film, music or other forms of art……………

14. a person whose job is changing words into a different language…………

Answers: 1. South Korea. 2. Viet Thanh Nguyen. 3. half-French, half-Vietnamese. 4. Los Angeles. 5. three. 6. professor. 7. C. 8. B. 9. B. 10. B. 11. spy. 12. refugee. 13. genres.14. translator. 

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