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Documentary fortnight day 2: Repatriation, conversation + roundtable

Day 2 of the London Korean Film Festival Summer Documentary Fortnight. All events free.

Repatriation (송환)

Director: Kim Dong-won (2004, 148 mins)
+ Conversation with Kim Dong Won and Chris Berry
Birkbeck Cinema | 43 Gordon Square | London WC1H 0PD
Sunday 12 August 2018 1:30 pm | Book tickets


In the Spring of 1992, filmmaker Kim Dong-won met Cho Chang-son and Kim Seak-hyoung, two long-term North Korean political prisoners, recently released from jail, where they had spent thirty years accused of espionage. Known as the “unconverted”, many of those captured refused to renounce their patriotism and communist beliefs, and were thus subjected to dehumanising conditions, and sometimes torture. Upon release, a number were refused the right to return to their country of origin. These individuals were generally looked down upon by society, where they encountered a strong anti-communist sentiment, had no help to integrate and lived in extreme poverty. Some of the only support they did receive came in the form of solidarity networks that helped them transition into society.

Kim Dong-won, who was himself involved in these activist movements, befriended Cho and Kim, as well as a number of other North Korean political prisoners, filming them across more than a decade. The film is a strong and often moving account of the trials these men faced after release, as they try to reconstruct what little is left of their lives. It reveals also the personal conflicts and doubts that arose when political tensions between the north and south eased up towards the end of the 1990s, bringing hope for reunification and the chance to return home. While holding close to his principle of filmmaking as community building, the filmmaker adds a personal and self-reflective tone to the film as he narrates in the first person his own experience with these men, sharing with us his own doubts and prejudices, hopes, and his reflections on both ideology and solidarity. Regarded as one of the most important documentaries ever made in South Korea, Repatriation is a timely film about the consequences of the conflict between these two divided countries.

Roundtable on Independent Documentary Filmmaking in Korea

Nam In Young | Kim Dong-won | Song Yun-hyeok | Chris Berry
Keynes Library | 46 Gordon Square | London WC1H 0PD
12 Aug 2018 4:45 pm | Book tickets

This roundtable offers an opportunity to learn about the history and particular characteristics of the Korean independent documentary scene, from the late 1980s to the present day. Nam In Young (Dept. of Film Studies, Dongseo University) will walk us through the journeys undertaken by a number of filmmaking collectives, in connection to the sociopolitical history of South Korea. We will also hear from two filmmakers, Kim Dong Won and Song Yun-hyeok, who have been both active filmmakers and activists throughout their lives, working with collectives to produce documentary films highlighting the resistance and activism movement in Korea. This roundtable discussion will be moderated by Professor Chris Berry (Dept. of Film Studies, King’s College London).

‘As I watched these [films], I realized that the subjects of the documentary were also its primary audience, and that they alternated being documentary subjects and audience during the production process. This gives the documentary a direct role in the formation and maintenance of the community and the movement…’

‘Rather, it is to provoke self-reflection and exchange amongst the residents themselves, in the process constructing a counter-public. So, here it seems we may have an example of a counter-public sphere that develops tactically in the space of capitalist modernity, working autonomously from the model of investment, production, distribution, consumption and profit. Instead, this socially engaged mode of documentary production blurs the divisions between production and consumption, employer and employee, investor and worker, filmmaker and subject, and subject and audience in the pursuit of its political and social goals.’

This Roundtable will be followed by a Drinks Reception. A selection of drinks, including Korean Soju, will be served.

(automatically generated) Read LKL’s review of this event here.

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