Courier Tae-jun sports an iconic orange jacket, revealing much about his character

White Night (백야) screening and Q&A with director Leesong Hee-il (이송희일)

Director Leesong Hee-il (이송희일)

Director Leesong Hee-il (이송희일)

At the Indieplus Q&A special event on February 19th, director Lee Song Hee-il’s (이송희일) latest film White Night (백야) was screened followed by the director graciously fielding questions posed by the audience. White Night has been a mainstay on the festival circuit since its premiere at the 2012 Jeonju International Film Festival, appearing in Vancouver and more recently featuring as part of the ‘Panorama’ programme at the prestigious 2013 Berlinale Film Festival.

The film, which was originally intended to be screened as part of a trilogy of short films, is based on the real-life event of a homophobic assault in Jongno, Seoul. White Night follows the victim of the attack, air steward Won-gyu who is visiting Korea for the first time in two years since the terrible ordeal. As he spends the night retracing the steps of the assault, he is joined by handsome courier Tae-jun who, for a reason he can’t explain, is reluctant to leave Won-gyu’s side. As the two men accompany each other throughout the night, they discover alternate experiences of being a gay man in contemporary Seoul.

Following the screening, film producer Hwang Hye-rim (황혜림) translated the queries posed by the audience. Before beginning, producer Hwang gave an insight into director Leesong’s history as a film maker.

Producer Hwang: Since his (director Leesong’s) first short film, which was made in 1998, up to his third feature White Night, his main concern was social prejudice in society. It’s a special opportunity to chat with him, as we (Korea) don’t really have a gay cinema, or films about sexual minorities or these kinds of issues. It’s not just about their struggles, but also about the melodramatic setting and that’s one  of the interesting things about his films too. How did the project start?

White Night (백야)

White Night (백야)

Director Leesong: As I said about 50 times in Q&A sessions, but just to give you a brief idea about the film, this film started as a shorter film. Actually there were 3 films released last year in 2012 in November, which were White Night, Suddenly, Last Summer (지난여름, 갑자기), and Going South (남쪽으로 간다). Before that I made No Regret (후회하지 않아) which was shown in Berlin which was also a queer movie, and Breakaway (탈주). I was preparing a feature film but while waiting to make that, because that film wasn’t in winter season, I had some time and some funding form a cultural organization to make a short film, which became Suddenly, Last Summer. It was like a part-time job for me in the beginning, it was short-term work. So I finished it in one month. And I decided to make another 2 films which became White Night and Going South. The original plan was to release the 3 films together as 1 feature, but they all became longer than I had expected so altogether it’s around 2 hours and 40 minutes which was almost not acceptable in cinemas. So it was changed into 2 films. Because I started with Suddenly, Last Summer which is about 2 men who take a walk through different kinds of ‘space’ during 6 hours. That was the basic concept that runs through all the films. So they are about the relationship between 2 men during a 6 hour period. [The film is based on a homophobic assault in Jongno, Seoul]. The incident took place in 2011 and the film was released in 2012, so it was a recent incident. I was preparing a scenario when it happened and the basic idea was based on a short story of Dostoevsky the Russian writer which is also in the title White Night. But while I was trying to write the script I didn’t really like the draft I had at the time. Then I hear the news of the assault and it was really surprising even to me. I’ve been a activist for gay rights, and I thought I’d seen everything, but even for me it was very shocking that it happened in 2011, when I thought that Korean society had become much better. It wasn’t what I expected. These kinds of incidents are like what happened in the late ’60s and ’70s in western and European society, but it happened here, now, and it was really alarming. Recently I had been focusing more on my film work, but the event changed that. I wanted to give the main character Won-gyu a feeling of a refugee, or of being in exile, so I took the incident as part of the inspiration for the film.

Question: Who is watching this film? By that I mean is it Korean women, men, foreigners, who is his audience? And how are Korean people reacting to this film and what kind of feedback is he getting? When he’s making these movies, what kind of audience does he usually get? Who is responding, and how is he expecting people to respond? Is tonight’s audience representative of people who generally watching his movies?

No Regret (후회하지 않아)

No Regret (후회하지 않아)

Producer Hwang: Maybe I should mention that his previous film which was made in 2006 called No Regret was the biggest hit of the independent film scene at the time, with an audience of 60,000 people. But he has been making films for over a decade, so let’s ask him.

Director Leesong: I’m not that old, it’s not that long! I think it’s quite a complicated, but very important question. I think there has been a remarkable change since I made my previous queer film No Regret. At the time it was a huge issue because it was the first feature film made by a gay director who had come out of the closet, and that in itself was quite an issue at the time. The film was quite popular and drew a lot of 20-something female audiences, they were like 90% of the audience, and they formed the fandom of this film. But it’s been 6 years since No Regret and remarkable changes have been seen in queer cinema and the market for queer cinema. Before it was mostly 20-something female audiences who were interested, and I think it’s an Asian phenomenon so it was quite popular among young women in Japan, Taiwan and Korea. In Europe and America there is a big gay audience, but in Asia 90% of the audience, at least in the case of No Regret, were young females. Also some women in their 30s, and mothers in the 40s and 50s who came with their daughters were there, but it was mostly women in their 20s rather than men. But when I released this film, I realized the audiences numbers were more reduced than before. I think the reason is that these kinds of issues are not rare anymore, you can see much more of them in TV dramas and other kinds of media which deal with gay issues, or using them as a subject. So queer film is not a rare item anymore. The second reason is that 6 years ago, not many gay people would come to the cinema because they were afraid that by watching the film, they may reveal their sexual identity. So many gay people were afraid of that. But I think probably from last year, because there were many gay films like Miracle on Jongno Street (종로의 기적) and Two Weddings and a Funeral (두 번의 결혼식과 한 번의 장례식). You could see more gay audiences coming to the cinema, which indicates there has been changes in the Korean cinema and queer market. Personally I don’t want to focus on films for gay audiences only, like camp films in America. I don’t want to focus on films that are only consumed by gay audiences, or be confined to that specific area or issue. I want to focus more on universal stories and feelings that appeal to other audiences as well. That’s why I tried to make a story like White Night, that focuses more on their emotional sides that can appeal to a broader audience. I think I’d like to continue like that. I’m thankful if gay audiences like my films, but I’d also like to have a non-gay audience as well.

Courier Tae-jun wears an iconic orange jacket

Courier Tae-jun wears an iconic orange jacket

Question: Can you tell us about the character of Tae-jun? With his orange jacket he’s similar to James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, so I just wondered if that was what you were going for, like a rebellious gay character who is out and proud?

Director Leesong: That’s a question I’ve never had during my Q&A sessions with the audience, and it’s a very accurate question. Personally I really like Nicholas Ray’s films. I saw Rebel Without A Cause a lot too, and I think it’s not just me but it’s also noted that certain bi-sexual elements are shown in Nicholas Ray’s films. I really like the colour and the tone of the movie. I saw this film shortly before I made White Night, and because the film is quite a low budget film we had to shot almost all of the film at night and we couldn’t spend much on lighting. So I had to figure out how I should show the difference between these two characters, light and darkness. Not just for the atmosphere and environment, but in their personalities. That’s why I thought that I should use the orange jacket, to show his character a little bit. My team tried hard to find an orange jacket that I would like, for almost a month, but the jacket you can see in the film is not the one that I like 100% but I had to compromise, it’s the restrictive environment of film making. The jacket was sold in an auction. It was really refreshing question, thank you.

Question: I saw the character of Won-gyu is chewing gum all the time. I was wondering if there was any specific meaning to that action?

Director Leesong: This is a popular question during the past 50 Q&A sessions. I really liked Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris and I wanted to shoot the scene where the character takes the gum out of his mouth and puts it on the wall of the toilet. When I saw that film a long time ago, I decided I wanted to have that in my film as well, and I finally did it. And then I thought, why the gum? Basically the character of Won-gyu came back to Korea and is recalling his memories of the incident, and is going back to the past, and as I have shown through other techniques such as when the character gets the zippo lighter, and when he smokes twice, it indicates that Won-gyu might have been a heavy smoker when he was younger. And he might feel the urge to smoke when he comes back to Korea, so he chews gum to stop himself smoking. Also in my other film Going South one of the main characters eats medicine for headaches habitually, which indicates that he is depressed.

Won-gyu expresses himself through gestures and mannerisms, rather than dialogue

Won-gyu expresses himself through gestures and mannerisms, rather than dialogue

Question: You were talking about your films, and I was curious to known if the queer scene in Korea and Asia was primarily based in gay cinema, or if there was any lesbian cinema?

Director Leesong: It’s kind of a complicated question to answer, but I have to say that in Korea not many lesbian films are made – or almost no films made, up to now. Because there are no lesbian directors who have come out. I know there are many lesbian directors, but they have never said, ok, I’m a lesbian. It’s part of the reason why lesbian cinema isn’t prolific in Korea. I sometimes get requests that I should make films about lesbians too, but it’s quite tricky for me because even if I make films about lesbians it will probably make it more difficult for female directors to make films about lesbians. The second reason is that I’m kind of a loner, so I don’t really know about gay communities in Korea – I do know well, but I don’t know very well. As for lesbian communities, I don’t have any idea about them. They are the two reasons why I haven’t made any lesbian films so far. I think it is also based on the structure of Asian society, which is based on patriarchy, so I guess it’s an Asian phenomenon that lesbian films are difficult to make. It’s much more difficult for a woman to come out of the closet and say that she is gay than a man, because if you are a man and if you are economically independent then you have less social disadvantages than a woman. It’s kind of trickier for Asian women to come out and say openly that she is lesbian. So it’s difficult for them to make films about lesbians. There are not many lesbian film makers in Asia, maybe some in China and Taiwan I know, but almost none in Japan or Korea who act openly as lesbian film makers. Another reason is that gay films can be consumed by female audiences, so women come to the cinema to see gay films but men don’t go to the cinema to watch lesbian films, I think, in general. Of course, pornographic films that feature two women can be consumed by male audiences as well, but it’s totally different when a lesbian film is made by a lesbian director who is the main force behind the film, it’s about her identity, then I think male audiences become less interested, or not interested at all. That’s the basic reality we have here in Asia.

Question: Why does Won-gyu always hesitate before he speaks? He’s always playing with things in his hands, like opening and closing the lighter, before he speaks.

Director Leesong: I didn’t want to give lines to the character of Won-gyu. Actually the actor who played Won-gyu, Won Tae-hee, he is quite a talkative and lively character. So I thought that if I didn’t give him any lines, that situation would already create a conflict within himself. We can see in a lot of dramas that the main character who has been hurt is saying they are in pain, asking people to recognize their pain, so we are kind of used to that, characters that speak about their situation loudly. That’s not the style I like, I don’t want to show it so obviously. I think in the films it’s much more appealing if you show these kinds of feelings in silence, sometimes. That’s why I choose to give him less lines. Tae-jun, the other character, is kind of the opposite, he speaks out at the moment about what he feels, that’s the contrast between the two characters. I also wanted to show Won-gyu’s little habits, like everyone has, for example I rip paper into little pieces when I meet people, and for Won-gyu he opens and closes things. This is how he shows his feelings, that’s how I chose to express his feelings.

Sincere thanks to director Leesong Hee-il for taking the time to answer the questions, and to Producer Hwang and Indieplus Cinema for translating and hosting the event.

Directors Interviews/Q&As
The tributes for Lee So-seon following her death are moving

Mother (어머니) screening and Q&A with director Tae Jun-seek (태준식)

Mother (어머니)

Mother (어머니)

A special screening of independent documentary feature Mother (어머니) was held at Indieplus in Gangnam, on the 29th of January. Director Tae Jun-seek (태준식) was also in attendance, and very kindly answered the questions posed by the audience following the screening.

Mother (어머니) is a documentary that follows the final two years in the life of activist Lee So-seon (이소선), a powerful figure in the battle for human rights for workers. Her late-son, Jeon Tae-il (전태일), is a legendary figure throughout Korea and other Asian nations for his dedication to improving rights for laborers. His protests against the abuses and of the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee (박정희) during the ’70s actually had the opposite effect as the government brought further exploitation, and as a result the then 22 year old set himself on fire. Jeon Tae-il’s death galvanized the workers’ rights movement, and since then Lee So-seon has tirelessly campaigned in his memory. Rather than focus on her efforts however, director Tae Jun-seek explores Lee So-seon’s final moments on Earth and her indomitable will in the face of ailing health.

Following the screening, the Q&A was translated by independent film producer Hwang Hye-rim (황혜림). Producer Hwang began by asking about the background of the film, and how director Tae began the project.

Director Tae Jun-seek: Well first, as producer Hwang explained, Jeon Tae-il is really one of the most important figures in modern South Korean history to the extent that he’s almost like a myth. And he’s a very important figure not just in Korean history, but also he was an inspiration to other countries in north-east Asia. He’s like a figure that symbolizes struggles for democracy in these areas. That’s one of the reasons you can see the director of the play (within Mother) is from Taiwan. That’s part of the reason why he was willing to do a play about him. I think the reason it was possible, the whole journey that Jeon Tae-il had, was because of his mother and even after his death Lee So-seon was very faithful to what her son believed and she tried very hard to keep those principles throughout her life. And that made me curious about her. What could make her strong like that? What could make a person like her? That was the start of the journey of this film. In this film you can see just a part of her life, but I thought it would be meaningful to show that part of her life, to understand Jeon Tae-il and also to understand Korean democracy. So I met her in 2009. I visited her, and told her I wanted to make a film of her. That was the start of the film.

Lee So-seon's everyday life is revealed during her final years

Lee So-seon’s everyday life is revealed during her final years

Producer Hwang Hye-rim: I should also give you a little bit of information about director Tae. He started his film making as an activist and a documentary film maker in Labor News Production, which was one of two of the earliest film documentary companies in Korea. The other was Documentary Pureun Audio/Video Collective. These are the two companies that started making productions back in the ’80s, on the scene of the struggle. So he started as one of the members of Labor News Production and produced a lot of documentaries and newsreels, and feature documentaries as well, which included mostly the scenes of struggles, and depictions of real life.

Question: Because Jeon Tae-il is already very iconic figure, and his mother is also a big figure, it must have been quite a challenge to start a story and make a story out of it. What kind of concerns do you have when you started?

Director Tae: Well it’s been a while since this film was released, it was released last year (2012) in Spring. I kind of thought afterwards, “Gosh I really chose a really really big figure for my film.” It was probably almost impossible to tell her story in a feature documentary. And also I had pressure from time as she was dying at the time and she passed away during filming. So I was running out of time, and I had this pressure of having to finish as soon as possible. So that was the limit I had, from nature. But the idea arose from the first meeting I had with her. I knew about this person from documents, I read a lot about her, I thought I knew about her, but from the first meeting she kind of gave me this inspiration on how I should tell her story. Because she was even back then, in her last days, still very funny, very interesting, and a very strong person. And I thought maybe it would be ok to tell her story from the present, to start the story from now, and not giving too much information ahead, but telling the story from her present and make a story out of it. I thought she was a beautiful person and strong enough to be in the film as she was. That was part of the intention, to make the story like this. Also I thought that I definitely need a long time to film her, and after a while I thought it would be effective to have a structure to go back to the past [and show her history] from the present.

Question: Were you able to distinguish any of the main influences on her life? Her parents were no doubt dead already, but what did you think were the really important factors that made her the strong personality type that she was?

Director Tae: I think that there were a lot of influences that made her who she was. She spent her childhood in Korea when it was a Japanese colony, and it was a really hard time. She couldn’t live with her parents when she was young, and she also had the experience that she was almost dragged away to be one of the ‘comfort women’ for the Japanese army. But luckily she escaped and she had to live in the mountains for about a month by herself. It was a time of hardship for all Koreans, so she had to live all the tragedy of modern Korean history by herself. So I think that’s part of the reason that made her as strong as she was. There was also the big influence from religion. She was a Christian and she always believed from a very young age about love for humanity, and to love and take care of your neighbours, and she also taught that to her son Jeon Tae-il. There were part of her principles from a very young age even after she lost her son in that tragic event. That was part of the influence that made her strong, I think. It’s not just about religion, but also her basic nature, to take care of her neighbours, people who share the world with her, people who suffer more than her, and she wanted to take care of these people. And she taught her son like that too. Also you can see in the film, when she was telling the story of her childhood she was saying [to bullies] “Beat me if you can.” She was that brave, and always against unreasonable power, and she always stood for justice. She did resist as much as she could, and they all influenced her into being strong.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about your history? You said you worked for one of the first documentary companies. How was your work used? Was it used to help the democracy movement, or did the government try and use it to strengthen their position? How did your history influence this documentary?

Director Tae: At that time I started working at Labor News Production I didn’t really think – not just me, but all of us – we didn’t really think we were documentary film makers. We started it as a labor movement, that we were taking part in the movement at the time. So we thought of ourselves as activists. So that was the start. I thought of myself as an activist taking part in the movement for 6 years, and I worked there as a documentary maker for that time. That’s quite different from thinking of yourself just as a documentary film maker. It was always about the real scenes of struggle, and I learned about making a documentary and the reasons why we need this fight for certain issues. And I also go to know Lee So-seon. So all these experiences led me to this film, I think, after all these years. Also I learned several techniques to actually be able to make a film, which became sometimes a survival technique. Making films is a difficult job sometimes. All those years at the Labor News Production became the influence for this film.

The tributes for Lee So-seon following her death included marches

The tributes for Lee So-seon following her death were incredible

Question: I really enjoyed the film. What is the importance of this film, and these types of films and history, for young people in Korea? And are they aware of these things in public schools, or just in history books?

Director Tae: I don’t think we have any public education or records for students in elementary, middle and high school, or even in university that teaches about Lee So-seon. But there are several books in the public education process that tell about her son, Jeon Tae-il. He is known to a certain extent, and there are also documentaries about him, and also a fiction film about him. So I’d say her son is well-known, but the mother not as much. There have been many efforts made to let Jeon Tae-il and his work more widely known to the public, but I think it’s never enough. There are still many ongoing efforts. The reason that this is important is that there are still many struggles over human rights, especially for workers, laborers. Lee So-seon was a person who spoke throughout her life about human rights and solidarity and the struggles we have to go through to achieve it. That’s why I thought her story was inspiring. There is still not enough consideration about the human rights of workers. It’s not really reflected in the process of public education. I think we need more records and films that can tell the younger generation about the importance of human rights. That’s why more and more films are coming out of the independent film scene which deal with these kinds of issues. It’s still never enough, and we are living in a country where a dictator’s daughter is president, so as you can guess it’s more difficult and more tricky to make these kinds of films now, but there are still efforts by independent film makers.

Question: I was really touched by the film, I thought it was better than other dramas and soap operas. I thought from the poster it was a film about an old woman, but I realised it was about the ‘Mother of Workers’ and it was really interesting. You put a lot of focus on her ordinary life and behaviour. I’d like to know why you choose those kind of tactics to portray her.

Director Tae: Well I think in Korea, people think of the labor movement as too serious sometimes and too violent. A lot of people think of the labor movement with those kinds of stereotypes. I think that’s the basic background I had when I started this film. As you can see in the film, the director of the play from Taiwan, he says, “It’s always about big action, or red ribbons and violent actions and demonstrations.” So people connect the image of throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at police when they think of the labor movement. They think of the images first, and it’s the big preconception about the labor movement here in Korea. Why it’s like that is another question. But Lee So-seon also thought it would be better if we can change that preconception and those images of the labor movement with this film, and I was trying to say that I don’t think these people are more violent or more organised or skillful in fighting. They are not those kinds of people. Fighting for your human rights is your basic right, that’s why they are fighting. It’s not because they are specifically violent people, that’s part of the report I wanted to make. Rights to work and for survival are your basic human rights. That should be natural. Lee So-seon was a person that symbolised that kind of idea. As long as you are human, you need to fight for your rights when they are threatened. I thought because she’s a person like that, I thought it’d be more effective to show her charm in everyday life, to show trivial things, to reveal her strong message. I tried to use those things to approach those ideas in her life, and to show you that. I also tried to depict the events backwards in the timeline, from the small to the big ideas, that’s why I didn’t want to put specific focus on the promise [to her dying son], or talk too much about it. I didn’t want too much melodrama out of it. I tried to leave Jeon Tae-il out of it as much as possible, although it’s impossible to leave him totally out of the film. I tried to show her as ordinary as possible, just as we are and her that her fight is not something too noble or too difficult, but a fight that has to be done for human beings. I wanted to show her life.

Lee So-seon continually displayed her strength of character

Lee So-seon continually displayed her strength of character

Question: You mentioned Park Geun-hye earlier. Now that she’s in power, do you think making these kinds of documentaries will become more difficult? She quite famous for being sensitive about anything bad said about her or her father, so how will you go about making future documentaries? Will you change anything?

Director Tae: Well I don’t think I will change anything under the regime of Park Geun-hye, as we already survived the Lee Myung-bak era. It will be difficult, but we already know about the difficulties so I don’t think I’ll change anything. At least, when it’s concerned about making films. I hope and believe that as we’ve achieved a democracy it wouldn’t go back as far as the old days when we had a fascistic dictatorship. Of course I can guess that there will be certain kinds of pressures on people who are making these kinds of films, and who are not afraid of getting their voices heard. So there will be that kind of suppression. But I don’t think people who are making those kinds of films are too afraid, whatever may come. The more difficult thing is everyday survival. We have achieved a democracy in terms of politics, but not as much in cultural aspects. There is still less and less support for public art, like making documentaries or independent films, so I think there is not enough support for independent artists these days. I think I’ll spend these 5 years under Park Geun-hye to try and make things better for independent artists.

Thank you to director Tae Jun-seek for generously answering the questions, and to producer Hwang Hye-rim and manager Kwon Mi-hui for translating and hosting the event.

Directors Interviews/Q&As
Stateless Things (줄탁동시)

Stateless Things (줄탁동시) screening and Q&A with director Kim Kyung-mook (김경묵)

Director Kim Kyung-mook at the Q&A

Director Kim Kyung-mook at the Q&A

A special screening of Stateless Things (줄탁동시), followed by a Q&A with director Kim Kyung-mook (김경묵), took place at Indieplus in Gangnam on the 15th of January. Stateless Things is quite a rarity within Korean cinematic culture as experimental queer art-house films are few and far between. The version shown was the two hour ‘uncut’ edition, featuring the sexual scenes that had to be edited in order for general release.

The film explores the concept of alienation within Korean – or, more specifically, Seoul – culture from the perspective of an illegal immigrant and a young gay man. While the immigrant, known as Joon, experiences alienation through exclusion, homosexual Hyun struggles against confinement. Director Kim Kyung-mook explores his protagonists employing various cinematic techniques, primarily non-linear editing and alternating cameras, for a highly unique production that prompted several questions from the audience.

Before the Q&A began, translator and independent film producer Hwang Hye-rim (황혜림) began with an introduction.

Producer Hwang Hye-rim: As it is quite a ‘different’ kind of film, even considering it is an independent film. It is unique, bold, shocking and too ‘obscene’ for some people. At first it was rated ‘R’, a restricted rating, which is like a XXX film in America. It means when you get this ‘R’ rating in Korea you can only screen the film in a certified cinema which is approved for screening ‘R’ rated movies. Which doesn’t exist in Korea at all. There is no cinema which is certified to show those kinds of films. It means if you get an ‘R’ rating, you can’t get it on the screen. So you have two choices. You can either delete or modify certain scenes and get an NC17 so it can be shown in cinemas, or you can have screenings only for specific kinds of events like festivals. That’s the fight that it had to go through to be in the cinema last March. It got NC17 after certain modifications. Not just because of the ratings, but you can also see it’s a very rare kind of film. So we can start with how he made the film, and how it started.

Stateless Things (줄탁동시)

Stateless Things (줄탁동시)

Director Kim Kyung-mook: My first film was called Faceless Things (얼굴 없는 것들) in 2005. This story (Stateless Things) evolved from one of the characters of my debut, which is a story of a young gay boy. From Faceless Things and from that boy character I tried to tell a story about this boy, what would happen to him when he goes out into the outside world, what kind of things would happen to him? That’s how I started to make the story. I wanted to make a coming-of-age story of this young gay boy, that’s how Stateless Things started. The English title is Stateless Things which is named in relation to Faceless Things, but the Korean title is quite different. The Korean title can be interpreted like a hen pecking inside and outside. I don’t know if you’ve read ‘Demian‘ by Hermann Hesse. It’s a story like a bird fighting its way out of an egg by pecking. ‘줄탁’ means pecking from inside and outside and ‘동시’ means at the same time. So it’s an idea of zen. Which means like if a chick is trying to come out from an egg it’s pecking from the inside, and the mother hen hears the sound of the pecking and pecks from the outside. So it’s normally used as an expression to show the relationship between a parent and child, or a teacher/mentor and student. That’s the process of giving birth to life, or realizing a truth. The Korean title has that meaning. But in this case it’s obviously the relationship between the two boys, one boy from inside, one boy from outside. So it’s like they are pecking the shell of an egg to come out to the outside world in a sense. As I mentioned about ‘Demian‘, in the film the expression was used to show the divided identity of this boy – these boys can be one boy or two boys – but he has two different kind of egos inside him. That’s why I used this title, to show that kind of idea.

Question: There’s a very strong feeling of alienation in the movie. And it seemed like a conflation between personal and social or national. Can you tell us anything about the influences that brought those two senses of alienation together?

Director Kim: Like most other directors this story also comes from my personal experience. So that was one of my influences. And it’s kind of related to my experience from when I came from Busan to Seoul. I moved to Seoul when I was about that age. And that’s why there’s a feeling of alienation, one of the main atmospheres you felt when watching this movie. I’ve heard a lot that the depiction of Seoul, or the scenes that have the landscape of Seoul, looks very different and strange. I’ve heard that a lot from Korean audiences. It’s probably because I felt like that when I first came to Seoul, like an alien or total stranger. So that’s how I looked at Seoul when I first came. Of course it has changed now as I have been living here for more than 10 years. So it’s not exactly the same, I don’t feel the same way I did before. But still it has a certain kind of strange look, Seoul has that kind of face when I look at it and that’s why it’s in the film. The feeling of space and moving, that’s how alienation becomes one of the main feelings in the film. That’s exactly the feeling I felt the most at that age when I came to Seoul. The alienation is about social alienation but it’s also the kind of feeling about being alienated from yourself, because you feel the chaos at that age. And you are often confused about who you really are, thinking about your identity and who you are and searching for yourself. So it was that kind of time for me. And that’s why they are feeling lonely as well, it’s not because they have no girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s because they have no answer to the question ‘Who are you?’ They are still searching for it. That was my experience around that age, and that’s how the story evolved from that experience.

Some of the gay sex scenes were deemed controversial

Some of the gay sex scenes were deemed controversial

Question: In the end credits, there were actors that played two characters. Was it because of lack of money or budget, or was it intentional?

Director Kim: Well it’s kind of intentional, it wasn’t because of lack of money. I wanted to give you the feeling of when you are seeing the same faces but in a different kind of feeling or story. So the first part of the film, and the second part, you see these people but they are not main characters. But you see the same faces in very different situations. For example you saw the women from the labour office, she was spanked in part 2 by the gay boy so it’s completely different kind of character played by one actor. That was my intention, to give this different kind of feeling from the same faces. There is other male character as well who played two roles, but it was cut out during the editing process. The film was already quite long enough so I had to remove it in editing.

Question: You showed a lot of different perspectives of having a gay lifestyle in Korea. A man with a double life who has a wife and a boyfriend, a young gay man who is trapped, another who is forced into homosexuality through poverty. But Korean movies are quite popular, the ones that have gay themes, like The King and The Clown and Bungee Jumping of Their Own. Why are movies with gay themes very popular, but it doesn’t translate into society? Why do you think that is?

Director Kim: I think one of the biggest reasons is the generation gap. I think the younger generation are much more open to gay culture and gay themes, or having gay friends. And the films you have mentioned are quite young at heart, in a sense, and there are a lot of dramas and soap operas and comic books which deals with gay issues very openly. A lot of young people are ready to embrace it, they don’t have any problems with that. But I think the older generation, maybe over 40s or 50s, they have lived a totally different life in a different era. So for them it’s still quite difficult to recognize this kind of culture or embrace it. That’s probably why. But they are the ones who still have the power, social status, and authority, to change things legally or politically. That’s why you cannot see as much difference in terms of law or social changes. But I think we have seen very big changes in recent years with young people and culture.

Joon and Soon-hee traverse the unwelcoming Seoul landscape

Joon and Soon-hee traverse the unwelcoming Seoul landscape

Question: I have two questions. The first is, how did you do the casting of the actors? How much was scripted, and how much did the actors do themselves? What was their feedback and input into the characters? And the second question is, I’m sure it’s probably often asked but why is the title so far into the film?

Director Kim: To answer the first question, except for some adult actors, most of the actors who played the main roles were first time actors. I found them through an audition. For most of them it was their first feature film experience. I was trying to find appropriate actors for the characters. Most of the scenes, especially the scenes with exposure, were written in the script already. So most of the actors who came to the audition said no to those scenes, it was too much for most of the actors who auditioned. So I had to find actors amongst those who wouldn’t say no to the script. I also tried to talk a lot with the actors, that’s how I work usually. I also tried to research a lot about North Korean defectors and gay people. I visited the gay clubs in Itaewon a lot. I also talked a lot to Korean-Chinese people with my actors. That’s how it happened. And the second question, about why the title came so late, I thought putting the title at the beginning of the film doesn’t really fit with this film. That’s what I thought. I didn’t want to start the film with a title. The question was then, where should I put it? I thought the scene when the two boys are meeting each other is kind of a beginning of the story for me, so I chose to put the title in front of that scene. But right before that scene, you remember the long sequence where Joon is walking down the street, it feels like an ending scene so I wanted to put a little bit of atmosphere of an opening scene as well. It looks like an ending, but it’s also a beginning at the same time. That’s the feeling I wanted to create. It’s like the end is the beginning is the end, in a sense. I thought that’s a better fit considering the whole rhythm of the film.

Question: When you started telling the story of the boy in the apartment, why did you decide to play with time? What was the symbolic reason for that?

Director Kim: Actually I tried to play with time throughout the film at first, but I thought maybe it would be easier if I reduced that a little to make it easier to understand the whole story, if I made it more chronological. So I reduced, or focused it more, on the apartment scenes. But as you can see in the opening scene when they are on the bike and running by the street, I also played with time a little bit there as well. The reason is that I was trying to show the story as if it is remembering something. It’s like telling a s tory about your past. The story is like the past of these two boys. And if you remember they are burning a diary at the end of the film, and I was trying to give this feeling, of getting rid of your past, and it’s time to move on to another future, in a sense. So that’s why the story is going backwards. Whenever you feel hard or difficult times in your life you go back to past memories. That’s why the movie has the structure of playing with time. It’s like telling a story by looking at the past and their memories. The structure, or frame, of memory was the main structure I was thinking of when I was making this film.

Hyun lives a life of containment and isolation

Hyun lives a life of containment and isolation

Question: I have noticed, in the past year especially, quite a lot of Korean films have dealt with issues that are usually very taboo to talk about in society. What I have noticed, which is quite exceptional, is that they have been dealt with full-on without any hidden facets, and very truthfully and realistically but at the same time very sensitively. What special attributes do Korean directors have that enables them to make films that are so frank and honest and extremely good? It’s very much appreciated.

Director Kim: Thank you! I’m not sure if I have the right answer but I’m going to try it anyway. I think maybe it’s because we had a history that changed very very quickly. Our society has gone through fast changes in the last few decades. So in the process a lot of things were suppressed and there was a lot of pressure in every aspect of society. Culturally, socially, politically. We went through this in a very short time compared to other societies in other continents. That’s probably why we end up having this power or strength against it, from that experience. I also feel the same way when I see some of the films from South-East Asian countries, and China. And I would like to say the same comment that you said about Korean films. In those countries, they are going through a change as well from a not very democratic society to a hopefully better society, so I think that kind of status of being more suppressed means you have more will and more energy to express. Resistance. You’re more willing to resist.

Question: It’s slightly related to structure. There were two scenes before Hyun and Joon meet that quite surprised me because they were unexpected scenes from each others lives. And they were both scenes of prostitution. The way that I picture it in my head is like kind of a yin and yang. It’s one persons story, but then there’s this punctuation of sex as a commodity in each of them. I think as far as I remember, those are the only two scenes in each others stories that appear. I was wondering about those scenes.

Director Kim: To me, as you said it can be like Yin and Yang, or like two different egos in one character. But for me these two boys were connected as one. Its like they’re behaving the same way, but have two different faces, for example. They are having paid sex, doing the same thing, but have different faces. For me those two scenes were related in that way. I wanted to create a feeling that they might be one person and not two. Also the scenes with the diary, some parts were shown in different parts of the movie. That was to give the feeling that they are from one diary, and that these boys are the same person. So the diary and the sex scene were devices for me to show that they are one. I also used several bridge sequences, like the video camera and hidden camera images, to show their mindscape being connected. It’s not consistent, but that’s how I wanted to show their minds were connected.

Director Kim addressed the audience in English, thanking them for attending

Director Kim addressed the audience in English, thanking them for attending

(Director Kim then spoke in English to address the audience) It’s a really rare chance to have a Q&A in English here. I haven’t actually had a chance to talk in English in a theater in Korea, so it was kind of surprising. I actually didn’t know that before coming here. I feel like I should of asked where you guys came from, but I missed it. Maybe after the Q&A I can maybe ask you, if you guys come to me.

Question: Are you making any new projects these days?

Director Kim: I’ve been working on a documentary for 2 years but I think I’m screwed! I’m not sure if I can go on. I’m just kidding. I’m still editing and I think I’ll be finishing the editing process by the end of this year. It’s about prostitution, women prostitutes. This time it’s about women, not men.

Sincere thanks to Director Kim yung-mook for graciously answering questions, and to Producer Hwang Hye-rim and Manager Kwon Mi-hui for translating and hosting the event.

Directors Interviews/Q&As
REALIES Pictures (리얼라이즈 픽쳐스)

Interview with President Kim Ho-sung (김호성), CEO of REALIES Pictures

On Friday the 11th of January, President Kim Ho-sung (김호성), the CEO of REALIES Pictures, very kindly agreed to have an interview. The young production company has been behind some impressive hit films, including box office smash Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자) and romantic comedy 200 Pounds Beauty (미녀는 괴로워). For a profile of the company, please click here.

Ever gracious, President Kim Ho-sung gave a great deal of insight into REALIES Pictures

Ever gracious, President Kim Ho-sung gave a great deal of insight into REALIES Pictures

Question: 2012 was an incredible year for REALIES Pictures, with Masquerade (광해, 왕이 된 남자) performing exceptionally well. What were the highlights of the year for you?

President Kim: Well, so many things happened last year. We started production (on Masquerade) last February, and then we had almost five months of production, and then three months of post-production. Then we released the movie in the middle of September. We had success at the box office and we won a lot of awards at the Korean Film Academy, the Daejong Awards, but that doesn’t really matter to me. Actually the highlight was the production I guess. We had a really great time with the actors, and the crew, and the director, and all the staff we worked with. So that was my highlight. We really really had the same kind of feeling when we finished the shoot. We were satisfied with the scenes and we talked with the director, “this is good, this is bad,” then if we try one more time then that’s the whole production process. It’s really good. I have made 5 or 6 movies before and this was the first experience to have that kind of feeling in the production process. I can say this is my highlight of the year. Getting the awards and people watching the movie is the result, because of our highlight.

Question: What about the London Korean Film Festival? Masquerade finished the festival in quite spectacular fashion. What did you think about that?

 President Kim: Yeah we went there, we were invited as the closing movie of the film festival. We were surprised because so many people were there and they already knew about our movie. And another additional thing is that so many movie stars like Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malcovich and additionally the great producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura were there. They enjoyed the movie just like a normal audience, and they approached me and cheered me up saying, “you did a good job!” So I was so happy about that, so I had a lot of conversations with the ‘big cheese’. And fortunately di Bonaventura talked to me and said, if you have a good project we can work together sometime. So that’s my prize. So it was really good, we had a really good time with the director and actors. Byeong-heon Lee was there too, and Ryoo Seung-ryeong was there. And a Lady invited us to her house. Actually she was Lady Rothermere, the wife of Lord Rothermere, and we had a really good time at her house. Personally it was a really happy time. And at the same time, the audience really enjoyed the movie. And they understand Korean culture quite well. I was surprised because there were so many foreign members of the audience there. I expected about 90% of the audience to be Korean, or Japanese, but I think half of the audience were foreigners, so that was a shock to me.

One of the many Golden Bell (Daejong) awards for Masquerade

One of the many Golden Bell (Daejong) awards for Masquerade

Question: You mentioned the Daejong Awards. Masquerade was incredible, it had the distinction of winning 15 awards. Every category it was nominated for, it won. Congratulations. However, some critics felt this was controversial. What are your feelings about the ceremony?

President Kim: Yes, err, that’s not my problem. That’s the Daejong Award’s problem, because they changed their politics. Before, they gave their awards by if one movie has got a lot of awards, they only give half of them, and give the other half to another movie. Make them equal, kind of thing. The critics always said, “that’s not a true award.” If one good movie is there, then all the awards should be for them, just like the Academy Awards where some movies won 12 awards, there are so many movies like that. So they changed their selection process, and their committee people, and included normal people, and then they voted. They concealed it, and then at the last minute they opened it and gave the award. They changed it. And it all went to Masquerade, and we won 15 awards. So the critics changed to the opposite of last year, complaining “How can one movie get 15 awards?” So I don’t understand, they changed their policy but unfortunately for them we won everything and that was the problem. Critics are always critics. Something happens, and they always talk about it. So I don’t care about that. So I’m watching next year to see what happens, are they going to change their policy or keep doing it like this past year? But after that, there was another Korean awards ceremony, the Blue Dragon Awards, and we won only one because of the Daejong Awards. That’s ridiculous. Movies are movies. Just like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, if a movie is given a lot of wards in the Golden Globes then there’s a possibility it’ll get one in the Academy Awards. I don’t get it.

Question: I’d like to talk about your past, if that’s ok. You studied at Hanyang University. When you were studying there, where did you develop your passion for movies? How did you develop it?

President Kim: Actually it goes back to my middle school years. It’s kind of a personal secret, but I can tell it now. One day I found an envelope in my mother’s box. So I found it and opened it, and I read it, and it was from my father. It was from the time they were dating. It was a kind of movie review, not a love letter. My father saw a movie and got an impression and wrote a letter to my mom. It was The Sound of Music. There were 16 pages of letters. So he wrote the entire story from beginning to end. I read the letters and I realized I wanted to see the movie. It was around the end of the 1960s. And 15 years later I saw the movie, finally! When I read the letters, the young me wanted to see the movie, and then I guess from that moment in my mind, movies were there. In Korea, there is a very tough exam system for entering university. I wasn’t a very academic guy, just a normal guy, and my test results were not really good. There are a few schools I could get into and I went there fortunately. After that, the seed in my mind grew.

The offices of REALIES Pictures, located in Chungmuro

The offices of REALIES Pictures, located in Chungmuro

Question: So then you went to Hanyang University. Did you start script writing? Directing?

President Kim: No, I studied dramas and plays. I did all the crew jobs, floor director and that kind of thing. Finally in the last year of my school days I translated two scripts. One was Hedda Gabbler by Henrik Ibsen. It’s a feminist play. And the other was The Green Bay Tree. That’s a British play, it’s a gay drama. It was very radical compared to Korean culture. Gay stories were very rare. I was too advanced. So I translated two plays and I produced the plays and put them on stage. After that I quit that kind of thing because they weren’t successful. So I lost interest. So I moved into the advertising industry.

Question: How long did you work in advertising?

President Kim: More than 15 years.

Question: What experiences did you learn through advertising?

President Kim: Many. That’s where I learned the basic concepts as a producer from that period. Fortunately I joined a foreign advertising agency called McCann-Erickson. That was the first foreign advertising agency in Korea. That year, 1991, the Korean government opened the advertising market to foreign agencies, and that was the first foreign agency to come to Korea. Because I could speak a little English, I could fortunately join the company and I worked as a producer there for 6 years. I produced some really good and interesting productions and everybody was jealous of them, because my products were really good like Coca-cola, Levis, Nike and Nestle. There were so many good products that I produced TV commercials for because in Korea there was only one foreign agency, and all the good products came to that agency. We were the agents for all those companies. I handled all the good products, and did more than 20 commercials a year. That was good experience for me. I learned all the basic skills and concepts as a producer, it was so lucky for me.

Question: You produced so many advertisements over those years. How did you move from advertising into movies?

Siren (싸이렌), President Kim's first foray in film production

Siren (싸이렌), President Kim’s first foray in film production

President Kim: I really enjoyed my time, for 10 years, doing TV commercials. But then suddenly I felt sick and tired of it. Not because it was boring, but because they were not mine. I put in all my effort and worked really hard. My wife calls this the lost 10 years between a husband a wife. I always went home around 2 am, stuff like that. I devoted myself into that area. I went to the Cannes Advertising Festival and we won awards but I didn’t go up the stage – my client went up the stage. It wasn’t mine. It’s true, because all the advertisements were for the clients, it’s theirs. I was just a serviceman. So there was no credit. I’m not disappointed about getting awards, they’re nothing, just that it wasn’t mine. Yeah I can earn money for living, that’s ok. But I’m a creator, so I wanted to do something myself, something that’s mine and that I can put my name on. Because of that I changed my mind and produced a movie. Luckily at the time I had a good script, and I had an investor because I worked really hard as a TV commercial producer. Some people wanted a new approach with a TV commercial producer, with special effects and everything. That was lucky for me. So I produced one movie while I worked at Seon-woo Productions the biggest TV commercial company in Korea. So I actually begged the president to do this movie and he accepted it because I worked very hard, it was my reward. So I produced the movie Siren (싸이렌), it was my first movie. It was very lucky. But it ended up that we were ruined. I was ruined. It had a bad box office result. Because of that movie I learned so many things. It’s a totally different approach to TV commercials. TV commercials are like a 100 meter race, but movies are like a marathon. We need different muscles. I realized that. That was the first time I experienced failure in 15 years. After quitting the plays and working in advertising, developing myself to be successful, this was the first experience of failure in my life.

Question: Then after Siren did you decided to create REALIES Pictures?

President Kim: No, I went back to TV commercials. I built my own production company called Ink Spot. I worked with director Park Kwang-hyeon (박광현) who directed Welcome to Dongmakgol (웰컴 투 동막골). He was also a TV commercial producer for a foreign advertising agency. He had the same kind of mind as me, so I asked him to join me and we worked together and we built the company together. We did a lot of good commercials together. That was in 2002, 10 years ago. We did a really good TV commercial, we won so many awards. As we are both from advertising we understood each other – he wanted to direct a movie and I wanted to produce a movie. So we developed a lot of stories. One of them was Welcome to Dongmakgol. He picked up the story from a play. We developed the story together, then I rented director Park to producer Jang Jin (장진), who is like a genius, and it was successful. And then when director Park came back we tried to produce and direct another movie but things changed. He was a big director, I was just a TV commercial company president. The industry needs just directors, not producers like me because there are so many. So we separated. I was desperate at the time, so I really thought about what I was going to do next. I wasn’t interested in producing TV commercials anymore. I made a phone call to Mr. Won Dong-yeon (원동연) because I hired him as a producer of the movie Siren and after that failure he kept doing his movie business and made two movies, and I went back to TV commercials. 5 years later, in 2006, I called Mr. Won and told him what I wanted and he accepted me and said let’s do it together again. At the time he was developing the movie 200 Pound Beauty (미녀는 괴로워). So I joined that production.

Posters of the films produced by REALIES Pictures adorn the walls

Posters of the films produced by REALIES Pictures adorn the walls

Question: So in 2006 you joined together and you created REALIES Pictures. Then 200 Pounds Beauty was released and it achieved almost 7 million admissions. How did such success affect the company? Did it give you any new experiences?

President Kim: Yes. Because we had a big failure 7 years before with Sirens, we both grew up and got a better understanding of the industry and stories, producers, directors, actors, everything. Mr. Won and I always tried to do better, to understand better. We tried really hard. When I did the first movie Siren, I didn’t understand people, it wasn’t my concern. Just as a producer I gave people money to do something, and they did it, that was the attitude. A TV commercial attitude. But I totally changed. I tried to understand my crew, I tried to understand my director. That was the huge differentiation between the two movies. I realized that making and producing a movie is not manufacturing something, it’s understanding people and the story. That is the first step in producing a movie.

Question: Did you always think 200 Pounds Beauty would be successful?

President Kim: No. No, because I had a kind of trauma with Sirens. I never removed that feeling from my heart. I was nervous. But I didn’t say to anyone about it, but we shared that kind of feeling together. We were very happy when we released the movie in theaters. When we waited outside the door of the theater we just found people were really happy when they were going out, so we were relieved. This is it, we did it! It’s kind of our habit now, we put a movie in the theater and then we wait outside the door, then look at the first expression of the audience. Then we can imagine, “yes, this is good” “this is bad.”

Question: In 2008 you released Marine Boy (마린보이), which was similar to a Hollywood blockbuster with a story involving drug trafficking and ambitious action sequences. Yet for some reason the film didn’t resonate strongly with audiences. Why do you think this was?

President Kim: I can say that it was too advanced, I guess. I think Marine Boy is a well made movie, the picture is good, everything is good, but story-wise it’s different from Korean movies. The Korean audience wants to have an emotional achievement when they watch a movie. This movie is so cool, like a Hollywood movie. So they were not moved. They were not touched. “It’s a cool movie, but I don’t like it” – that kind of attitude. I was too advanced. I wanted to make a Hollywood movie after 200 Pounds Beauty, so I learned another thing. Producing movies, I always learn something. A big success or big failure doesn’t matter, I always learn something.

The Influence (인플루언스)

The Influence (인플루언스)

Question: After that, in 2010, your next production was The Influence. The film is really interesting as it blends a variety of genres and is visually stunning. How did REALIES Pictures become involved in the project?

President Kim: I already mentioned about my resume, doing advertisements. I always did that kind of thing. I was sick and tired of making 15 second TV commercials, they always push that the product is really good with exaggerations and stuff like that. Throughout my years, my attitude for treating that kind of advertisement changed. In 2006 when I created Ink Spot, during that period my TV commercials totally changed. I put some story and emotional things into the commercial. Before that period I always tried to make them look good, just very visually good. I wondered how to touch the people, and I developed. I had an article from a magazine, and there’s a good reference to something BMW did called Hero. They hired 8 good directors and they made short stories, focused on BMW driving, it was really good. So I got a hint from that. I suggested it to an agency and a client. The product was Windsor Whiskey, a Scotch whisky from Diageo. It was really hard to put something like that in advertising because there are so many restrictions. All they can do is a billboard. They wanted to contact people from different areas and use the internet. So we made the product into a story. This is the first time we tried it, and we called it ‘branded entertainment.’ So we made 20 minutes – 4 stories – into a series, with director Lee Jae-gyoo (이재규). We worked together. And Lee Byeong-heon was there as a model for the commercial, and we used him holding a whiskey cup and he was very vivid and lively. From now, we produce a movie at the same time as doing branded entertainment. I planned and developed the iphone 4 film festival, that was the same level of branded entertainment. I suggested it to KT when the iphone 4 was newly launched in Korea so we had to make brand awareness. So I said let’s make a movie with iphone 4. I had a good director and cinematographer. We hired 5 directors and 5 cinematographers and they made 5 6 minute short films We put it in the Busan Film Festival. There’s a section for the iphone film festival. So that’s also branded entertainment, just a different form.

Along With The Gods: A Visit From A Stranger (신과함께: 낯선이의방문) is to be released in 2014

Along With The Gods: A Visit From A Stranger (신과함께: 낯선이의방문) is to be released in 2014

Question: Bringing us back to the present, your next production is going to be Along With the Gods: A Visit From A Stranger (신과함께: 낯선이의방문). Can you tell us about the movie?

President Kim: Yes, it’s a movie about the afterlife. I picked it up from the webtoon, it was a really big success 2 years ago. It has 3 different stories. There is Heaven and Hell, Earth, and mythology – 3 parts. So we contacted the writer and bought the copyright to make a movie. The reviews were really good, people really loved the story. The story is about a man after he died. Heaven and Hell are just like the normal world, there is a ‘Hellbucks’, just like Starbucks, there’s a coffee shop and a court. The man who died goes to the afterlife and he meets a guy who is holding a panel with his name on it. The man asks, “who are you?” and the reply is, “your lawyer.” That is the start of the movie. What? Is there a lawyer in Heaven? That concept is really cute and amazing, so I picked up the story. It’s the journey of a man who died, for 49 days. You know in Korea, in the traditional funeral ritual people always do 49 days of praying for the person who died. The relatives who live in the real world are praying for the dead person to go to a good place. That period of 49 days is the dead man’s journey, and his life is judged in all areas. Being a dad, stealing, violence, these things are judged from what he did in the real world. But he also has a lawyer, it’s a really interesting concept in the story. It’s going to be very fun.

Question: When will it be released?

President Kim: I guess we are aiming for a release around July 2014. It’s going to be a huge production.

I would like to sincerely thank President Kim for taking time out from his busy schedule to conduct the interview.

Interviews/Q&As Producers
Director Paik Yeon-ah (right) shares her thoughts with the Indieplus translator

Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마) screening and Q&A with Director Paik Yeon-ah (백연아) and star Hyung-sook (형숙)

Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마)

Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마)

At the Indieplus theater (인디플러스) in Gangnam, on the 18th of December, was a special screening of documentary film Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마). Following the screening was a Q&A session with director Paik Yeon-ah (백연아) and one of the stars of the documentary, Hyung-sook (형숙), who both graciously answered the queries from the audience.

Bittersweet Joke is a documentary concerned with portraying the lives of single mothers in Korea. Mainstream media tends to portray such women in an extremely negative fashion, with their faces blurred and voices altered, similar to criminals. Additionally, they often ignore the mother’s wishes regarding what is contained within the features, highlighting instead the extreme hardships of their existence. With Bittersweet Joke, director Paik Yeon-ah attempts to convey a more fully formed perspective of single mothers in Korea, conveying that they are capable, intelligent women simply trying to live their lives and raise their children to the best of their ability. The director also emphasizes the social prejudice that single mothers are forced to endure within Korean culture, as well as the innate lack of responsibility displayed by the fathers.

Bittersweet Joke – also known as Miss Mama – is an incredibly well-crafted and heart-warming documentary. The directing and editing are excellent, while the single mothers themselves are wonderful subjects through which to explore such an important social issue, conveying their joy and determination as well as their vulnerabilities and hopes for the future. The film was very well received by the audience, and following the end credits the Q&A session began.

The Indieplus translator kindly facilitated the discussion with director Paik Yeon-ah (백연아) and star Hyung-sook (형숙)

The Indieplus translator kindly facilitated the discussion with director Paik Yeon-ah (백연아) and star Hyung-sook (형숙)

The translator thanked everyone for braving the cold weather to come to the screening, and introduced both Director Paik Yeon-ah and Hyung-sook. Before questions were received, some information about the guests were provided. Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마) is the second feature from director Paik following Lineage Of The Voice (소리 아이) (2008) about two talented boys who perform traditional Korean music and opera.

Translator question: How did you (Director Paik and Hyung-sook) meet?

Director Paik: Thank you for coming to see the film on such a cold day. It was a great opportunity to meet Hyung-sook. That was really the start of the documentary. Although she sometimes she thinks she’s not sure if it’s good luck that we met, maybe it was bad luck in a sense because our relationship lasted so long and it was made into a documentary. But whether it is good or bad, making a documentary is like making a family in a sense, so I think we have become a certain kind of family during the process of making the documentary. And just like families our relationship is a tough and lasting one, I appreciate that. During the process of filming, I really enjoyed every minute of it. And the start of the documentary came to me quite naturally when I was finishing my first documentary Lineage Of The Voice (소리 아이). It was about two children, and after finishing this documentary I myself experienced pregnancy and had a child. And then I was more interested in making a documentary about children and I wanted to look into children’s upbringing and the relationship of family, focusing on children. So that was my interest, and I of course I was more and more interested about bring up a child being a mum myself. And then I found out about Hyung-sook, who is actually a rare person who is ready to speak about these issues, single mum issues, which is not really an open issue in Korea in 2010 when we first met. As my interest was focused on children, I wanted to look at different children in various conditions and environments so in that process we met. During that time not many people were willing to talk about single mum issues, not in mainstream media or any type of media, so she was the only one I found although I had to persuade her to make the film but she was willing to do it. Even after I got her agreement, here’s an association of single mom’s and they had to go through several meetings whether she should be in the movie or not, whether the film should be made or not. Because they have a history of people portraying single mum’s in a really negative way, so they had concerns. But she had decided to be in the film with me, and after these meetings we could finally start the film. And I think maybe she believed that this media, this documentary, would have a different kind of approach to this issue. That trust was between us, and that was probably the reason why she choose to do the film with me, I think. And that was the start of this documentary. That different approach was to portray them a little bit more like a comedy, and a bit more in a funny and enjoyable way. Not like a victim.

Hyung-sook: I made a very  brave decision to be in the film. I was the only one who didn’t want to use mosaic (which covers the identity). And I had seen many cases in the media in which single mums are depicted in a negative way here in Korea, and when I heard about this project from Yeon-ah I suspected the different approach and liked the approach of comic touches and the very enjoyable way of presenting. But also at the time I was running a little shop, but people got to know I am a single mum and because of that I had to close the shop. I couldn’t run it anymore because people were treating me as if I was a sick person, or as if I’m a bad person, and people that I knew such as family members, as soon as they found out that I am a single mum they assumed I would call them more (for help). It was a really stressful situation and I wasn’t ready to receive it. Having a child and raising it, why is it a problem to them? What’s wrong with that? I thought that by making this film maybe something could change. I expected a big change from making this film, but not yet. That’s how I started this project. And also another reason why I wanted to be in this project was because it was a rare project as the director told me it would have no altering, and I would be there with my own voice and my own face, which is not how the mainstream media usually depicts single mums. Most of them are not willing to speak out. But  this was different.

Director Paik: I think it’s a rare opportunity, and special too, to have a screening with an audience with different backgrounds because in some of your countries the situation is much better, and this is quite a Korean situation. Why is the single mum issue such a difficult issue? This is the reality we have. So I’m interested to listen to your responses as well. Please feel free to ask or share your comments.

Jun-seo and Hyung-sook within Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마)

Jun-seo and Hyung-sook within Bittersweet Joke (미쓰 마마)

Question: I was wondering if Hyung-sook has ever confronted any of her friends for treating her that way when they found out she was an unmarried single mum?

Hyung-sook: There are many cases where I had to confront other people about the fact that I am a single mother, and raising a child by myself. But there were cases where people would directly confront me about this issue. But this whole life is like fighting against the world, I think. Living as a single mum feels like that most of the time. At first, when I had Jun-seo (her son), I think until he was four years old I was really occupied with making my life, working and raising him, so I didn’t realise it that much. But after he got a little older and when I had to meet mothers in kindergarten, (I realised) it’s not just about me but it’s also about him. I’m a grown-up, so I can cry or forget about it or say something like “damn!” to make myself feel better. But for him it’s much more difficult, so that’s why he’s getting therapy and psychiatric help these days. So we are living through the situation together. It’s not just about one person, the whole life of a single mother is like that.

Question: Congratulations on such a great documentary. Really well made, wonderful subjects.  I’m the son of a single mum too and I could really feel (the message), and I really admire what you’re doing as a single mum as it must be incredibly hard. My former school was in the countryside area and a lot of my students had been abandoned by one or both of their parents and they had then gone on to make a new family so a lot of my kids were a bit troubled. But then I moved into the inner cities and that didn’t exist, it was all the ‘perfect’ family unit. The single parent children had been pushed to the fringes of society. With your documentary are you hoping to change attitudes? What would you like to see change in Korean society now?

Director Paik: Thank you first for your comments. First, maybe I should explain a little bit about the difference between English and Korean about (the term) ‘single mum’. In English we usually say ‘single mum’, but as you can see in the film it is actually translated as ‘unwed mother’. Which sort of reveals the prejudice against single mums already. I think there is this kind of tendency in our society to specify people like that so we’re not saying ‘single mum’ which can include several cases such as maybe the father died ahead of the mother, or divorced, or not married. ‘Single mum’ can be all these kinds of cases. But in Korean we usually call them ‘unwed mother’. So by specifying people in this manner, it seems to me like dividing people into ‘normal’ and ‘not normal’ in a sense. So by using the words ‘unwed mother’ it kind of reveals the idea that it’s not normal to be a mother when you’re not married. And that is based on the tendency that people are not accepting difference. We don’t have this tolerance, in a sense, and I think people are intolerant about this difference. So that’s why I think we should be able to accept and embrace these kinds of differences. That’s part of the reason why I made this film. And it’s also the goal of single mums. I think everyone of us can have a case where I myself can become an object of these kinds of prejudices. So I think it’s really important to be free of these kinds of prejudice for all people in society. And do to that, I think the idea that a family should consist of a father, mother and son and daughter makes a ‘normal’ family, that kind of idea should be avoided now I think, because we live in a much more complicated society. And I think through making this film I want to depict that kind of controversy in Korea that we have. The reality that we have.

Single mothers gather to discuss their experiences

Single mothers gather to discuss their experiences

Question: (N.B. This question could be interpreted as quite offensive towards single mothers, although it could perhaps be due to poor English language ability). I want to know more about Korean culture. I want to know why these kinds of accidents happen. Why are the father’s parents are not doing anything? Are the relatives not pushing them to avoid such bad cases? What about society? What about religion or culture? Does society show any pressure to avoid those kinds of things? Is Korean culture and society strong enough to prevent those things happening? There should be culture or ethics in society to prevent [this issue].

Director Paik: I don’t really understand what you mean by ‘accident’. Do you mean becoming a single mother is an accident?

(The question was then rephrased into a question about the father’s responsibility).

Hyung-sook: In general in Korea, I think the society is much more generous to men about being not responsible. In our culture we are much more generous to men even though they are not being responsible.  And so you can sue them, and get some money every month for the child and  try to make him responsible, but most of us already know that it’s no use. You can try, but a lot of us single mums know that it’s not really working. So I think we need stronger legal restrictions, on certain kinds of irresponsibility. We don’t have it yet. So I think like in other countries, it’s possible to have money transferred as soon as the [ex-partner] received his salary, if I can get that legally, or if we had that kind of system it would be much easier. But up until now, it’s not possible so that’s a tricky part. Also in our society, it’s more usual to have pre-marital sex. But having a child is a different issue. If you are pregnant and not married yet, young women are told they should get married with (the partner) and make a family. So having a child out of marriage is still very difficult here in Korea. Not many people welcome you. So a lot of young woman have to think that if they are pregnant they have to get married. That’s how it works. It’s a very tricky situation for them. If you have a child before or out of marriage it seems in this society that the prejudice is that it’s the woman’s fault and it’s unethical, in a sense. So that kind of atmosphere is pressure for women in Korean society. But nowadays times are changing, and a lot of women don’t really want to get married. To quote many women, marriage is not the ultimate goal at all. But [they are] responsible for their actions and when they have a child, that’s why so many women are becoming single mums in Korea. And I think there will be more and more, and I think it’ll be ok if single mums in this society can be included as a mum, as a woman, as a person who works for their livelihood. Just to be received like that would be ok. But up to now we still have to fight a lot of prejudice. If single mums can be embraced by society like that, like a person who’s working hard and having a child, having that kind of change is what we need. It’s necessary to bring up my child well, because all the pressure is going to the child as well. To conclude, the man is the problem! I’m really really curious to know the mental structure of a Korean man, and what’s wrong with them. I really think they need to be fixed. Totally. Seriously!

 – the question then continued – What about the child’s father’s parents?

Hyung-sook: Well I basically asked the father of my child he should be a father, and to do all the roles that a dad should do. Because it could really hurt my son, I think, because they have a relationship already. If he one day just disappeared, that will really hurt my son. So I asked him to keep that relationship of father and son, and do what he should do. It’s quite important I think, especially because he’s a son and he needs a dad, in a sense. I think it’s not just about money, it’s about bringing up a child together. Not living together, or getting married, but bringing up a child together. So we agreed to that. But at first the parents asked us to get married because we have a child, but because of our agreement they gave up. But they asked me a lot of things, for example please change his family name to the father’s family name. It’s usually the father’s side that you get the family name, even in Western society, and in Korea too. They asked that a lot, but I never said yes to that request. In the end, they told me that I am really something, and they are not asking that anymore. But the relationship is good now, not that bad, I think it’s quite good. The relationship between the parents [of the father] and my son is now quite ok, because he’s not just my son, he’s the son of his father as well. I totally accept that. I want him to have a father as well.

The subject of men is debated - are they needed?

The subject of men is debated – are they needed?

Question: I just wanted to say I really loved your movie. I think everyone should watch this movie. Personally, I’m from Canada and I have a very good friend that’s a single mother, so I know through being friend’s with her about her struggles. I think documentaries like this show single mothers as everyday people, and that they’re not abnormal. I also personally volunteered at an orphanage here in Korea and it’s really heart breaking that these children are abandoned by their mothers. So this movie really touched me because I think children should have at least one parent. I really think a lot has to be done about this situation. I just wanted to know, because I’m a teacher, what I can do to better this situation. How can teachers better support mothers and [their] children? It’s heart-breaking to know one of your students can be an outcast for having a single mum. As a teacher, how can we better support them?

Director Paik: As you can see in the film, when there was a campaign for adoption, and I think until about ten years ago that was the atmosphere of our society, to encourage adoption to solve the problem of orphans, to find them parents. But nowadays I think it is slowly changing, to give more support for single parents. Not for adoption, but to enlarge the support for the single parent. So that’s slightly changing. And to support the original family, because a lot of single parents give up – especially single mothers – give up their child because they don’t have the courage or because it is too difficult to live as a single mum. But now I think it is changing a little bit. Even the government policies are changing towards that kind of policy, like to support single parents financially and to have a different kind of atmosphere in society by supporting them. I hope it will change more in that direction. So if single mothers and single fathers get the support they need and get the support to bring up their child, that will change a lot of things including adoption and orphanage problems as well. I think the change is going in a quite positive direction these days. And the question you asked, because you are teacher, you feel more responsible about these children who are from single parents, and I think the situation that you mentioned is similar to what Jun-seo is going through now, so I’m sure that Hyung-sook has a lot of things to say about that.

Hyung-sook: I stopped working – I quit my job – to spend more time with Jun-seo. Before the film I wasn’t really shy to talk about these issues even in other media, but after this film was released, more and more people got to know about my situation and it was known more to the people at school. And Jun-seo got more and more questions about his mother and he told me that everybody is asking. His friends are eight years old and they don’t understand what ‘unwed mother’ even means, and what it really means to have a child outside of the marriage system. But they are asking him, almost everyday, “Is your mother an unwed mother?” They kept asking that so he got really stressed about it. That’s why he’s undergoing a very hard time these days. And I realised that he is talking less and less to me, and he doesn’t want to have a conversation with me, and he eats too much, and that’s how I found out that he’s having a very difficult time. I told Jun-seo, “Jun-seo, I am a single mum, I am an unwed mother, you know that.” And he told me that he knows, and it’s not the fact that they are asking him ‘do you have an unwed mother?’ that bothers him, it’s that they keep asking everyday. That’s what bothers him. It’s ok to ask him once, but they ask all the time and that’s really stressful. And it’s so stressful that my eight year old son told me that maybe it’s better to die than live. It’s such a huge stress to him. And I talked to Jun-seo’s teacher, and the teacher told me that [he/she] will definitely say something to the children. But that was it. So I was just thinking maybe there are not many things that a teacher can do, because I didn’t get a lot of help for that situation. So I can only hope that the world will changes a little bit faster, and to become a better world for my son to live as a single mother’s child. I really hope the changes are coming faster. One thing I can hope for is for a certain kind of education about the situation of single mums in Korea, that will probably improve the situation a little bit more. If we have these opportunities for education for the children, because they are too young usually [to understand], but also for parents and for teachers who possibly have prejudice about single mothers and their children. So I think it’s really important to have the opportunity to have that education about different types of families. There was one case where I met Jun-seo’s friend and I told him, when he asking me, “Are you an unwed mother?”, I answered, “Yes, I am.” But I told him that his mother and me are the same, that’s what I explained. But I cannot do that every time. And recently Jun-seo had a little bruise from the ice, which was thrown by one of his schoolmates because he kept asking Jun-seo, “Do you have an unwed mother?” And Jun-seo got angry and said stop that, and that’s when the boy threw the ice. I really broke my heart. That’s why I hope the world should change. And as for teachers, I think it would help to tell the single parent child that they are not different, and I know other school mates are telling [you things], but it’s no big deal. You’re just like them. And to be there for them in that kind of situation, and maybe hug him. Just let him [or her] know that they are not different. In other countries children can have quite open conversations about these kinds of issues, but here it’s still quite rare.

Director Paik Yeon-ah (right) shares her thoughts with the Indieplus translator

Director Paik Yeon-ah (right) shares her thoughts with the Indieplus translator

Director Paik’s closing comments: It was really precious time for me to have this kind of time with you. As a filmmaker who made this film, I feel more and more responsible, not only about this film but to make a better world in a sense, because that was part of the reason I made this film. So I’m not sure how much I can contribute to the change of this world, but I hope I can. To do that I’d like to try community screenings as well, after all the screenings are over in the theater, so we are trying to organise community screenings. We are also trying to do that in a co-operative program with the association for single mothers. It’s an educational program to go and meet people in person, and to educate about the situation of single mothers life and their rights. So we are going to do that with the association, and we are going to try and arrange more community screenings. And Hyung-sook mentioned about having educational programs for parents, teachers and grown-ups as well. It would be really great to have more and more opportunities to watch this film and discuss these issues about single parents. Especially to have that kind of opportunity with parents would be really great and maybe that will contribute a little bit for change. I think it’s necessary. I feel really obliged that I should do this more actively, I should do more as the person who made this film. The people who are in the film – including Hyung-sook – they [found] the courage to come out and speak in this film, so I feel more responsible, that I should make the most out of it, and to contribute more to the change.

Thank you to Indieplus for hosting the screening, and thank you to Director Paik Yeon-ah and Hyung-sook for generously giving their time and answers.

Directors Interviews/Q&As

Red Maria (레드 마리아) screening and Q&A with Director Kyung Soon (경순)

Red Maria (레드 마리아)The Women’s Global Solidarity Network hosted a special event on Saturday the 8th of December at the Columban Mission Center in Seoul – a screening of documentary Red Maria (레드 마리아), as well as a Q&A session with director Kyung Soon (경순).

Red Maria, for the uninitiated, is a documentary addressing the plight of ‘labor’ amongst a selection of women in Korea, Japan, and The Philippines. Director Kyung Soon highlights how while the women in each respective country lead quite radically different lives, they are all subject to the same restrictions imposed upon them by patriarchy. Within The Philippines, women who are involved in the sex trade, families living in the slums, and elderly women who came forward about the atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers, are interviewed. In Japan, homeless women, care-workers, and those unjustly fired are profiled. Within Korea, female protestors, immigrant wives, and sex workers lives are conveyed. Throughout the broad selection of female lives that are documented, director Kyung Soon establishes not only the incredibly difficult situations forced upon them by patriarchal culture, but also – and perhaps more importantly – how the women find the strength and courage to fight their battles and improve their lives.

Before the film began, the director told the audience she wanted to explore the idea of women’s labor and the labels ascribed to them, and asked those in attendance to consider these areas when watching. Interestingly, she also stated that Red Maria is not a typically ‘kind’ film in reference to the themes explored within and also the critiques of patriarchal culture.

Director Kyung Soon introduces 'Red Maria' (레드 마리아)

Director Kyung Soon introduces ‘Red Maria’ (레드 마리아)

The documentary was well received by the audience, and director Kyung Soon graciously answered questions from the audience following the screening. Her answers were very kindly translated by members of the Women’s Global Solidarity Network.

Question: Thank you for making such a moving film. What is the significance of the belly (a recurring motif within Red Maria)? Why not the hand, or something?

Director Kyung Soon: When I was young, I was actually very interested in bellies. In Korea, we have the public bath house culture, so when I was young there were not many separate shower rooms. We had a special day for going to the bath house, and when I went there I could see all the ranges of women in terms of age. From grandmothers to really young women, I could see them all naked. When I saw my grandmother’s and mother’s belly and body it was really fun for me to touch them because they were so soft and funny feeling. As I grow older, whenever I go to the public bath house and see young women’s bellies,  I feel very sad. When I was young bellies to me meant a warm place, but nowadays it’s like a shameful part of the body. So now you see in modern Korea, in terms of dieting, women are trying to get rid of their bellies. Even though it’s a part of their body, they actually try hard to get rid of it. So when I see that kind of culture, I feel very angry about it. I still enjoy going to the bath house, but now when I see women’s bellies I feel angry about them. In my opinion, the reason why a woman is a woman is because of her belly, and how a man becomes a man is because of the penis. But men don’t do anything else with their bellies, relatively speaking, compared to a woman. Actually I think a woman’s labor starts with their belly as it is connected to the uterus and vagina. For example when we have a period this is something we need to do, and also it’s a special thing to do, but actually no-one cares or talks about this as labor. Then having sex, and delivery babies and having abortions, these are all connected to the belly and women’s labor. But with this kind of labor women can’t get any benefits in terms of money. So of course people labor with their hands, but I think fundamentally we need to look at our bellies and what bellies actually mean for our lives and how they define labor.

Question: What was your reason for choosing those three countries in particular? What did you see as the underlying connection between Korea, Japan and The Philippines?

Director Kyung Soon: Before I made Red Maria my previous work was Shocking Family (쇼킹 패밀리). It was about criticizing the concept of the Korean family. So through this film I showed the women’s role within the family, within the patriarchal culture in Korea. And for that film I was invited to Japan a lot. Before that I didn’t have many chances to go to Japan, but because of this movie I was invited 7 or 6 times and through these kinds of events I met a lot of Japanese women. As I met a lot of Japanese women I was quite shocked to find the reality they faced in their own country. In Korea when we talk about the low birth rate, the Korean media always describes Japan as a very successful country that got over the low birth rate. But what I found out was that these Japanese women had the same problems that Korean women face. Also in Japan, even though it is a very wealthy country there is a really strong social order in Japan and that kind of culture makes women feel very suffocated. So when Japanese women go on strike or struggle in their work places or with their family they don’t have the spaces to make or build solidarity with other people. So when you see my film you can see Sato, the Japanese woman who was working hard, struggling and on strike by herself. What I actually saw in Japan was that they need some communication channels among people – among women – who are struggling. What I felt as I met these women, whether they live in wealthy countries or poor countries their problems are very similar and they share a lot of common things in terms of their struggles. Maybe there are some differences, for example if you are living in a wealthy country you might wear more expensive clothing, or eating better food, but  still I think the fundamental problems women share are very common. And the reason I chose the three countries are that you can see the poor countries and the wealthy countries at the same time based on the women’s labors. We can see their problems within the specific country’s cultural context, so that’s why I chose these three countries. And I also think women’s lives have not been dramatically changed except for the invention of the electronic cooker and washing machine. The reason that I chose The Philippines was because although there are a lot of migrant women who came to live in Korea, I actually found many of them were Filipino. So I didn’t really know much about The Philippines. But in 2007 I went to The Philippine and lived there for a year, and to learn their culture and study. From 2008 I started filming this film. And also when you are watching you can see these three countries share a similar history, for example how Korea was colonized and The Philippines was effected by the imperialism, and you can see the female victims of the war.

Director Kyung Soon answers questions from the audience

Director Kyung Soon answers questions from the audience

Question: First I’d like to thank you for the film, I really enjoyed it. One of things I found interesting was how it is difficult to gain self-realization through work. As a female laborer, I thought you showed the difficulties well how difficult it is to gain self-realization through labor. Because the work we can do, the work we want to do, is very limited. But at the same time, it might actually be a common problem for all the people who work in this world. So in that context, what do you think about this kind of problem?

Director Kyung Soon: As capitalism grows bigger and bigger, and the internet becomes really accessible don’t we share a lot of information together? But I think it’s very much marginalizing the actual problem. You can see all the incidents, events and access all the information easily. There are so many things of interest. Is this something you need to seriously consider or think about? For example, what does ‘liberal’ mean? What does the term mean to us? We rarely think about labor. When we look for the definition of ‘labor’ in the dictionary it is defined based on payment without really considering what labor really means. So when you think about labor in this way, you can look back and think about the labor that you were doing that didn’t involve getting paid. Then in this context, or this definition, we can’t enlarge the meaning of labor. So if labor is only based on payment, or the amount of payment, then if you earn a lot of money you might think that you reached the top of self-realization earlier than other people. But if you earn five grand a month or a grand a month, people still face the same difficulties. Because the person who earns five grand tries to pay off their mortgage debt, but the person who earns a grand a month have to pay their monthly bill for their house. So I actually think everyone is getting poorer in this society. I think we can’t just divide people like this. I think we are all connected. What I want to say is that self-realization can’t be measured based on the payment you receive from work. I think the answer that I want to show through the film is that we should make the world for the people who only earn a grand but that they are still able to gain their self-realization. The way each person lives seems very challenging within society but I think it’s a very fundamental question you need to ask yourselves. One thing that I want to add here is that in Korea we have a proverb that unemployed people can die due to overworking and stress, which means that even though they are unemployed they still have a lot of things to do. Which shows that being unemployed is only based on capitalism. So you don’t get any money, but you still do a lot of things. For example, people can volunteer. They don’t get paid to do that, but actually through volunteering they can gain self-realization. Therefore if we only look at labor in relation to payment or money, you can’t enlarge the meaning of the word ‘labor’ anymore. So this capitalist society drives the people not to ask this kind of question about labor, only to think about labor in relation to payment.

Thank you to Mik young Kim and the other members of the Women’s Global Solidarity Network for hosting the event, and to the Columban Mission Center for providing the venue.

Directors Interviews/Q&As