Following on from 2022’s theme Living Memories, which focused on preserving memories and the truth through documentary, we continue to investigate the documentary form with our new season Labour(s) of Love, curated by MA film students from Birkbeck, University of London. By examining the lives of workers whose labour shapes the fabric of the world we live in, the meaning of ‘labour’ will be shown to inhabit life-structuring activities that promote community, passion, love, and not just arduous handiwork.
Dir: Kim Jeong-keun, 2018, 88mins
7pm Thursday 15 June | Register here
Taking a tour around Korea’s public infrastructure, director Kim Jeong-keun beautifully frames the iron temples which keep our cities running. Seeing the artistry in the everyday lives of public workers, the film gives a lot of time to what many would consider unskilled work. Looking at both those in technical college and people who have been working for years, Underground paints a portrait of the hidden public workers from cleaners to train controllers. Despite the industry becoming more reliant on automated and temporary workers, those that devote themselves to their labour become skilled and fulfilled in their work. Underground highlights the industrial action from the workers union around the conditions of low pay and poor job security showcasing the artistry and passion in their work as they call for better working conditions. Underground gives cinematic space to previously unseen acts, a humanising of public workers beautifully shot with a strong message.
Talking Architect (말하는 건축가)
Dir: Jeong Jae-eun, 2011, 98 mins
7pm Thursday 22 June | Register here
Talking Architect functions as a eulogy for the architect Chung Gu-yon, documenting the final year of his life as he undertakes a retrospective exhibition of his own work whilst fighting terminal cancer. The film highlights how his passion for his work extends beyond the buildings to the people that will use them; he creates structures that take care of people and the environment that they inhabit. The film explores his notable ecologically conscious approach to architecture, as he chooses to integrate his plans with the land, rather than intrude upon it; one such example is when he constructs an entire building around a tree instead of cutting it down. The film’s title is also an ironic nod to the fact that despite being tasked with recounting his life’s work and driving philosophy, Chung Gu-yon’s vocal cords were severely damaged by his cancer treatment, and he speaks in a whisper for the entirety of the film; yet, when it comes to what he loves, he finds himself unable to stay silent.
Earth’s Women (땅의 여자)
Dir: Kwon Woo-jung, 2009, 95 mins
7pm Thursday 29 June | Register here
Kwon Woo-jung documents the day-to-day experiences of three women who relinquished city life to pursue their fascination with agricultural labour.
This intimately shot documentary follows on from Kwon’s debut feature, Back to the Soil (2004) in its exploration of bucolic life and farming. The protagonists are college friends struggling to find their place as women in the conservative farming society. As they attempt to carve out roles for themselves, Earth’s Women focuses on the ways the women make space to be heard within the agricultural community, specifically highlighting women’s roles and the work they do in the agrarian movement, education, and manual labour on the farms. Earth’s Women is a heartwarming experience, championing the roles of women in these typically male dominated areas of labour and love.
My Love, Don’t Cross That River (님아, 그 강을 건너지 마오)
Dir: Jin Mo-young, 2013, 86 mins
7pm Thursday 6 July | Register here
Documentary filmmaker Jin Mo-young gives a new meaning to life and the labour of love in his film My Love Don’t Cross That River (2013). Filmed in Hoengseong County in the Gangwon Province over a 15 month period, the film showcases the love between a couple as they face obstacles of life, family, and death. Jo Byeong-man and Kang Kye-yeol, the married couple, have been married for 76 years and gone through nearly every life stage as a couple. Now both 98 years old, the couple showcases their daily life and the small and large acts of love and compassion they do for each other daily. The film is a testament that love is a universal language, as it is the most commercially successful independent Korean documentary of all time.