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|Deep Focus : Feminist Experimental Film/Video (25)||Korean Cinema Retrospective : Femme Fatale of a Thousand Faces, Do Kum-bong (4)|
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In the last several years, the role of Korean women filmmakers’ within the industry has grown at more than an amazing rate. Women have only been taking an active part in the filmmaking scene, which was considered largely a man’s field, as recently as ten years ago. Women have broken into various areas of production, distribution, producing, directing, cinematography, editing and publicity. A Smile by Park Kyung-hee, the opening film for this year’s Women’s Film Festival in Seoul, proves that such efforts have not been in vain.
The concept for the film is inspired by the smile of Buddha. The knowledge that attaining the highest state of enlightenment comes after being submerged in the absurdity and agony of life can be found in that knowing smile. The film tracks the path and choices of a woman who is confronted with a sudden crisis in her life. So-jung is a photographer who one day finds out that she is suffering from tubular vision. It is a disease that gradually narrows range of vision, leading to possible blindness. However, she does not know when she might lose her sight and her sudden uncertainty and insecurity causes her to give up plans for studying abroad with her boyfriend, Ji-seok.
The story is comprised of four chapters: Tubular Vision, Family, A Smile, and Flight. It follows So-jung’s path and mirrors the reality she is faced with as well as her inner aspirations. So-jung stays in her hometown for a while for her grandmother’s funeral. The family looks peaceful and calm on the surface, but each one of them is suffering their own lonesome misery. The situation contains conflict and violence with the potential to boil over at any moment. It is as ominous and looming as her great-grandfather’s ugly grave. Her boyfriend, Ji-seok is also unable to cure or soothe her stifling vision. A flight instructor, whom So-jung encounters, is also at his own personal stalemate.
The absolute limit of the reality So-jung is faced with paradoxically brings relief to her inner desire to overcome such limits. So-jung gradually loses her sight, but in doing so sees the image of a goddess flying from an ancient tomb of Gyeongju, which has been buried in darkness for a thousand years. So-jung herself then dreams of flying.
Two of Korea’s most noted young filmmakers have participated in support of director Park’s feature debut; one as a producer, the other as an actor. Undaunted by capitalist pressure, A Smile is born out of filmmakers’ passion for cinema, from producer down to young crew, demonstrating the potential energy lying within Korean cinema. (Nam In-young)
PARK Kyung-heePARK Kyung-hee