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`If You Were Me': Animations With a Conscience

2005/09/22 | 261 views | Permalink | Source

By Joon Soh
Culture Editor

Two years ago, the Human Rights Commission of Korea funded six directors to make short films about discrimination. The result, titled "If You Were Me", was an insightful collection of works that looked at such diverse topics as the plight of the disabled, obsession with physical appearance and the mistreatment of migrant workers.

The film received critical praise and invitations to local and international festivals, and despite a noticeable lack of commercial success, the commission decided to fund two sequels to the project: "If You Were Me 2" and "If You were Me : Anima Vision".

"If You were Me : Anima Vision", released in theaters today, brings together six different animators and animation teams to tackle issues similar to the original film. None of the directors involved are what you would call popular on the mainstream level, but then again, there really isn't any animation filmmaker in Korea who is.

The most familiar name here would probably be Lee Seong-gang, who won the top prize at the 2002 Annecy International Animation Festival in France with "My Beautiful Girl, Mari". Lee's contribution, "Bicycle Trip", is done in a gentle, poetic style reminiscent of his award-winning feature film.

Lee's film revolves around an ownerless bicycle whose story we pick up in bits and pieces as it wheels itself around town. The resulting reverse narrative, which has to do with migrant workers, comes off as delicate and highly effective.

A few other works show a personal and intimate animation style similar to Lee's, and they end up being the more successful out of the group. "Day Dream", done in simple watercolor wash, tempers its social criticism regarding the discrimination of the physically challenged with a sweet scene of a man taking a nap with his disabled daughter.

Made by a team of animators, "At Her House", about a woman who is taken for granted by her husband, uses a simple hand-drawn technique to render the characters and their environment. But its graphic simplicity belies a complex sense of space and story.

However, the collection does have a major flaw, and that is a lack of clarity as to exactly who the audience for these films is supposed to be. Some of the works are too strange, complex and, in some cases, too scary to be suitable for younger viewers. Lee Ae-rim's surreal "The Flesh and Bone", with its Max Ernst-meets-Terry Gilliam collage world, may even give children nightmares.

On the other hand, two of the animations seem to be made with a younger audience in mind. But adults may not be as interested in the clay animation "Animal Farm" by Kwon Oh-seong, which tells a humorous story about a timid goat who tries to fit in with a group of sheep, or Park Jae-dong's "Be a Human Being", which equates secondary education to a process of turning animals into humans,

Despite its flaws, "If You were Me : Anima Vision" gives viewers an interesting glimpse into artistic styles and techniques from the local animation world. And, of course, the heartfelt message behind the films is an important one that makes the whole "If You Were Me" series worth checking out.

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