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Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

LKFF Festival Bites: Film Students are Softies

We’d just seen Jang Jin’s contribution to the Human Rights Watch short film collection If You Were Me 2: Someone Grateful (고마운 사람). In it, a student demonstrator is befriended by his police interrogator in the KCIA’s underground torture chambers in the 1980s. It’s a provocative short, because instead of railing against police brutality and the military dictatorship, it invites us to feel sympathy for the interrogator: a humble contract worker with no hope of promotion doing a job which officially didn’t exist. Jang Jin shot the film in one day as part of the government sponsored project. It was made at a time when there was a big show trial relating to the 1980s and Jang was of a view that it was time to move on and forgive the past.

Someone Grateful
Someone Grateful: the interrogator offers the prisoner a drink

One amusing scene in the short has the interrogator giving the prisoner tips on how to make the next round of torture more bearable: don’t scream so loudly when you’re electrocuted; don’t breath so deeply when your head is plunged under water.

Tony Rayns asked Jang: do you speak from experience?

Jang had to admit that it was just hearsay.

Like any student in the 1980s, Jang protested on the streets. And it was a badge of honour to have been taken to the KCIA’s underground torture chambers. You couldn’t be regarded as a serious protestor unless you’d been tortured. Jang too was taken in for interrogation…

Jang Jin with Tony Rayns
Jang Jin with Tony Rayns at the ICA, 11 November 2010

When the interrogator asked Jang which college he attended, Jang gave the name of the arts university he attended. “What are you doing here? You should go home.” He was immediately released. Other students at the college got similar treatment: film students were either thought not to be a threat or too delicate to withstand torture.

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