Reminded me of this, from Park Chan-wook’s 2000 film JSA:
jsa mmm…chocopie (sorry, I lamely can’t get the video to embed correctly.)
The conversation goes:
Lee Byung-hyun: Hyeong…
Song Kang-ho: Thing is, I don’t understand why we can’t make stuff like this in our country.
LBH: Hyeong… hey, you don’t want to go down South? I mean, you could stuff yourself full of choco-pies.
YBH: Geez, forget it then.
SKH: Listen, you little bastard, I’m just going to say this once so listen good. I dream of a day when our country will make cookies that taste a thousand times better than South Korean cookies. Got it? But until then, I have no choice but to dream about these cookies.
LBH: Ah, let’s forget about it. You’re all talk anyway…
Choco-pie: the great divider and uniter.
I’m verrry interested in this film about a Korean-American/Korean wedding both from a thematic and production perspective. It’s about a wedding between a Korean-American man and a Korean woman, and was shot by director Christine Yoo with separate U.S. and Korean production teams (starring Brian Tee, Kang Hye-jung (of Old Boy and Welcome to Dongmakgol fame), Bobby Lee, Stephen Park, to name a few, and ooh! Margaret Cho as “The Shaman”?!).
Having experienced a similar situation with my brother’s wedding, and being curious about/studying Korean/Korean-American relations, I can’t wait to see how she deals with the cultural assumptions that happen on both sides of a “Korean family.” I’d always had a sneaking suspicion that my parents’ insistence on what Korean culture is and what it meant for our family was contingent on the particular historical moment they left (the early 1970s), where they found themselves in the U.S. (California, but not L.A., so not a huge diaspora community), and the course of history in South Korea since their departure (tumultuous, to put it mildly).
My generation of 2nd-generation Korean-Americans’ (dating myself here a bit) interest in contemporary Korean culture was mediated through new immigrants, crappy video tape copies of Korean dramas, relatively limited access to films and music, and a seemingly bigger conceptual distance, but that has changed dramatically with the internets (duh) and greater movement of populations for education and leisure. This is not a profound statement by any means, but easier access to Korean media has really drastically changed the way the diaspora community views and relates to Korea proper, down to the concrete level of language acquisition and preservation/continued evolution.
When I first started really paying attention to Korean dramas while studying Korean language in the early 2000s, I asked my mother (who left Korea in 1972, had been back a handful of times, and was an occasional crappy video-tape watcher of Korean dramas) about the difference between two words for happy: “행복하다” and “기쁘다.” She’s no linguist, but she told me at the time that “행복하다” wasn’t used all that often because it meant a really effusive, over-the-top, ecstatic kind of happiness. This confused me, as the dramas I saw dropped “행복” like after-dinner mints, or like a completely normal part of everyday speech. Fast forward a few years, and “행복” is a normal part of everyday speech for my “at least two hours of dramas a day” mom, and a case-in-point that:
a. language evolves,
b. language in isolation in diaspora communities can stagnate or evolve differently,
c. access to contemporary media can change that,
d. korean dramas are insidious, and
e. my mom watches a lot of drama (she now claims that I have mis-remembered this conversation, or that it never happened).
This is a minor point in the greater conversation of how diaspora ties have changed in the last decade or so, but it came up again for my family when there were miscommunications and misplaced/misconstrued expectations between my (now) Korean-American parents and my sister-in-law’s “Korean-Korean” parents. Hijinks ensued, but probably in a less entertaining way than would happen in a film.
So, long story short, I want to see this movie, I wonder how she deals with the cross-cultural issues in the story, I’m fascinated by the aesthetic differences she sees between Korean film and Hollywood film (her milieu), glad to see Stephen Park of In Living Color fame again, Korean cultural essentialism academic jargon wankery, etc. etc. (Deep curtsy).
a. No fair
b. Go see these films
I’m very late on this, but I just saw that Bae Doo-na has been cast in the film adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas as Sonmi-451, the Korean-ish fabricant in the futuristic narrative segment of the novel. She’ll be part of an impressive cast including Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Tom Hanks, and Ben Whishaw. It’s being made by the Wachowski Brothers (red alert!) and Tom Twyker.
Huzzah! Bae Doo-na is my favorite Korean actress, and Cloud Atlas is one of my favorite novels of the past decade, so yay. Its expected release date is October 2012.
This weekend I managed to carve out a little time to take in some movies at the queer film festival. I was able to see a couple of foreign films and a bunch of Korean ones. I’ll give some brief thoughts below, but first, the festival runs until Wednesday at the Seoul Art Cinema in the Nagwon Arcade next to Insa-dong. Tickets are available for purchase online or at the box office.
So, film festivals. I’m trying to think of a good analogy for how film festival marathons make me feel, but so far all I’ve come up with is transoceanic flights. They’re exciting at first because you think you’re going to be transported somewhere really new and different, but several hours into it, you’re sitting there in the dark, your butt aching and the backs of your legs numb from those stupid chairs (is it the fabric? it feels like it’s the fabric that’s causing me pain), and you’re whispering into your cupped hands for it to just end already. And the more often you buy those tickets, the harder it is to make it to the end.
This time around, it wasn’t until hour five of my film marathon that I started to enjoy myself.
The first film I saw would probably be really, really interesting to someone who is either new to lesbianism or new to lesbian films. Being new to neither, I have to admit that I got really bored. I don’t actually want to bash the film since I think they did an okay job (and just needed to do some more editing), so I’ll speak in broad strokes. But basically, when did lesbianism turn into one nonstop dialogue about wanting to make babies? Not all of us want babies. Some of us just want to watch movies about cool lesbians doing cool things in cool cities and towns around the world. Please, please someone make another movie quick that isn’t about babies. My other complaint about the movie was that it was too openly didactic. The first scene is set in a bar… but it’s a scene of women talking about heteronormative gender roles and bi-phobia. *Yawn* It’s a movie. Show me. Don’t tell me. On the plus side, the movie does open up a dialogue about adoption rights and support for single mothers. Given that the movie is set in Hong Kong, that felt like a fresh perspective on the issue, especially considering how stereotyped Asians are when it comes to adoption and single parenting.
The second film I saw was “창피해” (“Ashamed”), which got a lot of hype at the women’s film festival and has been promoted online. It’s supposed to be the first feature-length “lesbian film” in Korea featuring 김꽃비 (Kim Kkobbi) and 김효진 (Kim Hyojin), who are not queer.
I wanted to like this film. I even got up early in order to get to the box office when it opened so I could get a ticket. So how can I explain…? Let me put it this way. When not only the director himself (yes, HIMself) repeatedly refers to his own movie as “boring,” but even the MC who is facilitating the Q&A after the movie refers to it as boring, you know something’s wrong.
If You Were Me 5 (시선 너머, 2010), the fifth in the series of omnibus films funded by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea was released last week (April 28) in Seoul, after initial screenings at the Seoul Independent Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival in 2010.
I haven’t gotten a chance to see the whole film yet, but one of the shorts about the friendship between an illegal worker from Mongolia and a Korean woman, “Nima,” (dir. by Boo Ji-young) was screened at the International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul in early April, so I’ll blab a bit about that and a bit more about the larger project.
There will be screenings of If You Were Me over the next two weeks in Seoul with talks with some of the directors: 5/4, 5/6, 5/7, 5/14, 5/15. (Full schedule — sorry, don’t know if the film will be subtitled or if the Q&A will have interpreters)
I am not a spiritual person, but after watching The House (집), an animated film that takes a unique approach to the issues of affordable housing and urban renewal, I am tempted to set out a heaping plate of rice cake and pray to the guardian spirit of my apartment for a little housing luck.
In The House, the protagonist Ga-young is estranged from her parents and has just moved into her friend Hee-ju’s tiny one-room apartment on the rooftop of a marketplace building. Ga-young’s sole desire is to acquire a home of her own–specifically, a luxury apartment. Meanwhile, their neighborhood, the aptly named “Hope Market,” has been scheduled for redevelopment. In a few months, the entire market will be torn down to make way for more apartment buildings that none of the current residents will be able to afford. Hee-ju is content to stay in her crumbling room as long as she can and believes that luck will come her way with the right combination of faith and monetary supplication. But Ga-young is skeptical; at one point, she curtly dismisses a pair of religious quacks who are visiting Hee-ju.
One day, Ga-young frees a cat that has become stuck in their bathroom window and winds up with its (magic!) collar around her wrist. She walks out of the bathroom and right into the big, squishy, yellow body of the house’s guardian spirit. An Alice in Wonderland-style adventure ensues as Ga-young is reluctantly drawn into the world of her rooftop neighbors’ house spirits, one very sassy feline in a flying armchair, and the hypocritical politicians who visit the marketplace to try to sell the local merchants on the promise of redevelopment. In the process, Ga-young comes to terms with her childhood and discovers the power of empathy. Continue reading