Abortion has become a controversial issue in recent times, but when can women's voices be heard?

Let’s Dance (자, 이제 댄스타임) – ★★★★☆

Let's Dance (자, 이제 댄스타임)

Let’s Dance (자, 이제 댄스타임)

Although abortion has long been illegal in Korea, women who have required the procedure typically had few problems locating a surgery willing to help them. While the law is quite clear on the issue, given Korea’s fraught recent history – Japanese occupation, the Korean War, IMF crisis, and so forth – abortion has been, generally speaking, considered an unfortunate yet uncontroversial societal practice, allegedly supported by the state-run population policy. Yet in 2009 a hospital was accused of performing abortions, catapulting the issue into the mainstream spotlight as a source of controversy. Amongst all the debates that have taken place, ironically the women involved have been largely ignored. In documentary Let’s Dance (자, 이제 댄스타임), director Jo Se-young (조세영) provides a platform for women who have undergone the procedure to give their personal accounts, and for their voices to be heard.

Abortion has become a controversial issue in recent times, but when can women's voices be heard?

Abortion has become a controversial issue in recent times, but when can women’s voices be heard?

Let’s Dance is a wonderful documentary and a tribute to women everywhere who have ever considered or undergone an abortion. The beauty of the film lies in the unbiased perspective, as director Jo expertly removes the veil of anonymity and simply allows her subjects to speak about their experiences without fear of judgment. Such a description may imply Let’s Dance is a melancholy affair yet this is far from the case, as the diverse range of women interviewed informally discuss the reasons that led to the decision, generating a context that the black-and-white word of law doesn’t provide. Each interviewee gives a sincere, poignant, and comprehensive account of their respective situation at the time that never fails to create empathy, while the surprising amount of humour – one woman shyly laughs as she describes how her then-boyfriend claimed he simply wanted to fall asleep whilst holding hands – add ever more layers of affinity and insight.

Encounters discussed by the interviewees are recreated by actors, often with humourous results

Encounters discussed by the interviewees are recreated by actors, often with humourous results

Throughout Let’s Dance, director Jo also wisely includes reenactments of scenes discussed in interviews, which serve to add further understanding as well as comedy. It is intriguing to watch the actors struggle to understand and portray the complex emotions of the situations, which often swing between powerfully moving and funny in the absurdity. Chiefly the comedy is derived from the silliness of the male partners in their attempts to have unprotected sex, while ironically they are also the source of disappointment when it comes to making the difficult decision of abortion. Wonderfully, director Jo never represents the women as victims in the reconstructions, but as women claiming ownership over their bodies, candidly conveying their strength and fortitude.

The documentary also makes a point to discuss the social judgement and stigmatization applied towards women who have had abortions. Such vilification typically comes from religious groups, law makers, and men, and the film does a great job of highlighting the ignorance of such groups in an effective manner. Scenes from a genuine abortion debate in a courtroom are equal parts frustrating and comedic, as the mostly male lawmakers discuss the issue without any real notion of women’s human rights or even biology – one particular male representative hilariously doesn’t know how long pregnancy lasts – with such scenes emphasizing how women’s voices and rights have been pushed to the margins.

Women's rights and voices regarding abortion are controlled by men, yet Let's Dance provides the freedom to speak without judgement

Let’s Dance provides the freedom to speak without judgement about abortion

Let’s Dance (자, 이제 댄스타임) is a wonderfully frank, moving and surprisingly funny documentary about abortion. Through interviewing a diverse range of women about their experiences with the procedure, director Jo Se-young (조세영) provides a platform for them to informally discuss their respective situations with the resulting stories never failing to generate empathy and insight. Due to director Jo’s unbiased approach, and in conjunction with humourous reenactments by actors, Let’s Dance is powerful testament to women who have ever considered or undergone an abortion.

★★★★☆

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Festival News International Women's Film Festival in Seoul (제16회 서울국제여성영화제) Korean Festivals 2014

The 16th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul

The 16th International Women’s Film Festival in Seoul (WFFIS) will begin from May the 29th, running through to June the 5th.

Featuring the tagline, “see the world through women’s eyes,” the festival employs programming that focuses on women’s issues and cinematic trends, as well as work from a variety of female filmmakers, in order to explore and debate the role of women in cinema. While WFFIS features international productions, greater focus on the role of Asian women in cinema is reflected through the programming.

In addition to familiar favourite categories including contemporary trend explorations in New Currents, the lesbian and bi-sexual focused Queer Rainbow, and the Asian Short Film and Video Competition, other exciting programming has also been announced. Asian Spectrum: Camera is my Heart! is dedicated to female Chinese documentary filmmakers, while Polemics: To Love Hot or Die Hard examines issues of love and romance in conjunction with economic and consumerist debates. Director Byun Young-joo’s trilogy committed to the struggles plaguing ‘comfort women’ is presented in Special Screening: The Murmuring – Resolving History While Still Breathing. Meanwhile, the life of Japanese actress Kagawa Kyoko is celebrated through A Life in Front of the Camera: Actress in Re/Action, KAGAWA Kyoko, which features an impressive line-up of 8 films from her career.

For the official WFFIS trailer, please see below:

Opening Film

For Those Who Can Tell No Tales

Director Jasmila Zbanic

For Those Who Can Tell No Tales

For Those Who Can Tell No Tales

Opening WFFIS 2014 will be Bosnia-Herzegovinan film For Those Who Can Tell No Tales by director Jasmila Zbanic. Award-winning director Zbanic has explored the issues effecting women in her home country, such as sexual war crimes by Serbian troops in Grbvica (2006) and religious discourses in Na putu (2010), throughout her career. In For Those Who Can Tell No Tales, an Australian tourist visits Bosnia for a holiday and throughout her travels slowly learns the traumatic history of the country, fundamentally changing her forever.

WFFIS 2014 will take place entirely at the Megabox on the 5th floor at the Migliore building, Sinchon. Please see below for the map and transportation information.

WFFIS 2014 Map

WFFIS 2014 Map

For the full list of programmes and screenings, please click on the link to be taken to the official WFFIS website.

Festival News Korean Festivals 2014