As the featured country in the film festival Shooting Left Asian ’10 — Korea Now, which opened at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre on Wednesday, South Korea doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to a sparkling nation of pretty-faced pop stars and electronic gadgets that most of us are familiar with.
On the contrary, forced eviction, women’s labor protests and a homosexual political movement are among the sociopolitical issues tackled in the seven documentary films screened at this festival. Initiated in 2006 with a series of film screenings, forums and panel discussions, the Shooting Left Asian event is organized by Bodyphase Studio (身體氣象館) on an irregular basis with the aim of exploring Asian countries from a social activist perspective.
The struggles of ghetto tenants in central Seoul come into focus in People Who Can Not Leave and Yongsan, Expression in 337 Way: Rhea, both of which deal with last year’s violent crackdown against participants in a sit-in protest against forced evictions in the Yongsan neighborhood that left six people dead. Many of the clips were shot by activists present at the event, for whom being able to produce and spread their message quickly and widely is much more important than high production values. These clips nevertheless have a strong sense of immediacy.
Extended interviews and a focus on the everyday lives of locals help build a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the government’s redevelopment projects, which many believe sacrifice the landless poor for the profits of the conglomerates.
The Border City 2 is a polished production that explores the deep divisions between the two Koreas, a living heritage of the Cold War, through the personal turmoil of Song Du-yul, a renowned South Korean philosophy professor who lived in Berlin for more than 35 years. Branded a North Korean spy, Song returned to his homeland in 2003 and immediately faced a five-year trial that ignited fierce conflicts within South Korean society.
Another highlight is Earth’s Women, an affecting documentary by female director Kwon Woo-jung that has gained wide exposure on the film festival circuit. The film follows the lives of three women who moved to farming communities and devoted themselves to the peasants’ movement after graduating from college.
“These documentaries are very direct and powerful. You can tell the filmmakers are keen to make observations and are very articulate in formulating issues. Watching these works makes us realize that we in fact hardly know anything about South Korea,” said Yao Li-qun (姚立群), director of Bodyphase Studio.
Additional screenings of films such as People Who Can Not Leave and Yongsan, Expression in 337 Way: Rhea will take place at the Sanying Aboriginal Community (三鶯部落) and Losheng Sanatorium (樂生療養院), two Taipei-area communities facing relocation. Discussions will also be held by activists and academics from South Korea and Taiwan on related social and political issues. For more information, call (02) 2391-9393.
What: Shooting Left Asian ’10 — Korea Now (在左邊的亞洲影展)
When and Where: Today and tomorrow at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei City (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號); Oct. 2 at Sanying Aboriginal Community (三鶯部落) at Sanying Rd, Yingge Township, Taipei County (台北市鶯歌鎮三鶯路); and Oct. 3 at Losheng Sanatorium (樂生療養院), 794, Jhongjheng Rd, Sinjhuang City, Taipei County (台北縣新莊市中正路794號)
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