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Bang Min-Ah Wins NYAFF Screen International Rising Star Asia Award

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 23, 2021

Winning the Screen International Rising Star Asia Award at the New York Asian Film Festival was “great news and a real surprise,” said actress Bang Min-ah. The news even prompted a special family celebration.

“My mom’s response was, “I can’t believe my daughter won an award in New York!” she said with a laugh.

The singer-actress, a former member of the k-pop group Girls Day, won the Rising Star award for her role in the Korean film Snowball, which was shown at the 2021 festival. The award is given to actors who demonstrate strong promise and notable screen presence. Previous winners include Ryu Jun-yeol for his role in Money and Lee Joo-young for Baseball Girl

In Snowball, Bang Min-ah, known simply as Minah, plays Kang-yi, a teen girl for whom friendship is everything. Kang-yi is friends with classmates A-ram, played by Shim Dal-gi, and So-young, played by Han Sung-min. The girls decide to run away from home together, but the lack of a plan leads to some harsh consequences. The character Minah plays in Snowball is very different from her roles in such TV dramas as My Absolute Boyfriend and Beautiful Gong-shim. Kang-Yi is very passive and gets swept up in her friends’ decisions.

“In the film, you can always find her lingering in the background,” said Minah. “Kang-yi is also an innocent and naive kid who doesn’t recognize how her ‘best’ decision is pushing her into the worst situation. As I followed Kang-yi’s emotional path, I recalled my own long-forgotten teenage years. Kang-yi’s character made me very frustrated and uneasy because she reminded me of myself back in the days, regretting after making senseless decisions.”

Whenever Kang-yi went astray, Minah wanted to stop her by saying, “Please don’t, please don’t.”

“If you don’t care, you wouldn’t meddle in a person’s life,” she said. “Kang-yi made me care, so in my own way as an actor, I spoke to her. I acted in the hopes of Kang-yi’s decision being the best decision for her. It made me feel very close to her, as if we were becoming each other’s closest friends.”

At first, the actress could not understand why her character would repeatedly run away from home. Unlike Kang-yi, whose life seems somewhat ordinary, So-young and A-ram had more common reasons to run away. So-young, who had good grades, was pressured by her family to get accepted into a top tier school. A-ram was a victim of domestic violence. 

“Only after playing Kang-yi, I realized the kind of dreadful weight the word ‘ordinary’ actually carries,” said Minah. “Kang-yi must have felt trapped in that word.”

Playing Kang-yi prompted Minah to question the ambiguous social standards of being “ordinary,” “normal” or “average.” Who gets to decide what that means?

“Do we even know who placed such measures upon our society,” said Minah. “It was scary to think that in reality I was unconsciously coerced on many things and unintentionally placing such pressure on others as well.”

Minah is drawn to scripts that feature a character she can imagine interpreting in her unique way.

“I actually felt sick reading Snowball because of the whirlwind of emotions I felt following Kang-yi’s journey,” she said. “Snowball deals with not only Kang-yi’s sentiments but also the universal experience of coming to terms with one’s identity. It made my acting more challenging. Nevertheless, I still wanted to play Kang-yi.

Minah debuted as a member of Girl’s Day in 2010 and released her first solo album, I Am a Woman Too in 2015. When she started as a singer she never imagined she would act.

“Acting was a vague dream of mine,” she said. “In 2013, I had an opportunity to act for the first time in the film, Holly. It made me realize that my singing experience was actually helpful in my acting, in understanding and expressing the character’s life. Since then, I’ve persistently challenged myself in acting.” 

Holly told the story of a mother who works as a club dancer near a US military base and her middle school student daughter who dreams of becoming a ballerina.

“Being a newcomer, I was often anxious about my future as an actor. Every time that happened, I thought back to the early days of being a member of Girl’s Day,” said Minah. “I remember that no matter what the challenge was, I always tried to concentrate and be immersed in the work. Such memories gave me courage to take the next step and expand my acting career. That’s how I came across my role in the 2016 TV drama Beautiful Gong Shim, which was the project where I felt for the first time a strong appetite for acting.”

The character was exciting to study.

“The three-dimensionality of the character made Gong Shim very much alive, as if she were a real person. That is probably the reason why many fans also remember and love Gong Shim to this day.”

Acting allows Minah a chance to experience different characters’ colorful lives. 

“I also enjoy presenting new projects to the public, showing the challenges and efforts I made alongside different actors and staff. I believe that the process affects the tone of the final work. So I not only enjoy acting but also feel a deep sense of responsibility in my role as an actor. It’s a slightly different kind of pleasure from being a member of a girl group, where we become one by showing a perfectly synchronized performance.”

In her current TV drama, the four-episode Check Out The Event, Minah plays another bubbly upbeat character, a woman who flat-out refuses to accept that her boyfriend is ending their relationship. 

“My character Ha Song-Yi is like the bubble in a cold soda you drink in the midst of summer in August,” she said. “She is honest and confident, and openly expresses her emotions. In any given situation, she shows a wide range of emotions and reactions. Though she projects such lovely and fresh energy, behind it all, she is hiding a great fear of betrayal. She fails to leave or let go of the man who wants to break up with her. I believe anyone who has ever been in love and gone through a breakup can relate to this character.”

The film Snowball was adapted from the award-winning novel The Best Life by Lim Sol-ah and premiered at the 25th Busan International Film Festival in 2020. Snowball arrives in South Korean theaters on Sept. 1.

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