On a rainy Thursday the 9th of May, the 10th Green Film Festival in Seoul (GFFIS) got underway with an opening ceremony at Yonsei University’s Baeyang Concert Hall in Sinchon, Seoul. Hosted by duo Kim Tae-Hun (김태훈) and actress Park Hee-bon (박희본), the event sported several videos celebrating the festival’s now decade long run – including a quite sweet musical video called Have a Cup of Tea, or See a Film! (차라도 한잔, 영화도 한편!) helmed by renowned director Kim Tae-yong (김태용).
Important politicians and policy makers, including Mr. Park Jae-dong, Mr. Yoon Seong-gyu from the Ministry of Environment, and Chairman of the Board of the Korea Green Foundation Mr Lee Se-jung all gave welcoming speeches regarding the importance of the festival and of ecological awareness in general, and their comments were warmly greeted. This was followed by an opening declaration by Mr. Kim Won, the Chairman of the Organizing Committee, who then brought actor Ji Jin-hee on stage to present him with a small plant as part of his acceptance in becoming the latest eco-friend of the festival.
After a short interval, everyone was again seated for the opening film. Gus Van Sant’s Promised Land , which re-teams the director with star Matt Damon after the critically acclaimed Good Will Hunting, sees a duo from an energy company attempt to buy land in the country in order to harvest the natural gas beneath. Yet the residents become concerned due to the process of ‘fracking’, in which chemicals are pumped into the Earth to get the resource, making the prospect a tough sell. The film was very well-received by the audience, and the film itself is a very apt opening due to the debates involving nature, community, big industry, and money. Please see below for the review.
Promised Land – 6/10
Promised Land is, in many ways, a great film to open the festival with. The story sees Steve (Matt Damon) and Sue (Frances McDormand) as workers for Global, a giant energy conglomerate who wish to obtain the natural gas residing under a farming community in Pennsylvania. Few actors do ‘everyman’ as well as Matt Damon, and that charm is present throughout the film as he is simply a good guy trying to do the best job he can. Unfortunately that job is to buy the land out from under the people, and his naivety in this regard is perplexing as it’s quite obvious what the ramifications are from the start. To reinforce the point director Gu Van Sant features plenty of establishing shots of the countryside to emphasize what’s at stake, making Promised Land a very attractive film throughout. Despite the quite serious subject matter the narrative is often comedic, featuring some real laugh-out-loud moments as Steve and Sue continually face obstacles ranging from school teachers to the weather. Steve’s journey is an interesting one as he is torn between being a man with working class roots and his desire for (financial) success, although his reasoning isn’t explored nearly enough. Furthermore the narrative is far too ambitious as it attempts to cover too much in the running time, and in doing so lacks any real heart or emotional power. The inclusion of a love interest for Steve tries to address the issue, but she is often jettisoned in favor of returning to the environmental debate. Promised Land is a good, solid film and certainly one of the better dramas to deal with environmental issues, yet the curious lack of heart make the film a thought-provoking, but somewhat emotionless, endeavour.