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[Guest Film Review] "The Remnants"

2017/10/14

HONG Ji-you and Kim Il-rhan's "2 Doors" dealt with the events that took place during the 2009 Yongsan tragedy, and in the process, made a clear accusation towards the then Lee Myung-bak administration, as the highlighted the corruption resulting from the connection of politics, the press, the police, and the judiciary. Despite their extremely thorough research, the directing duo was not satisfied with just that, and actually tracked the five demonstrators who were imprisoned as perpetrators for the deaths in the incident, during the next seven years, and present, through them, the aftermath of the events and the trial.

"The Remnants" (Festival entry) is screening at London Korean Film Festival that will be on October 26 to November 19.

What becomes evident from this realistic, but heart-breaking, documentary is that the five individuals examined are left utterly broken physically and mentally after their unjust imprisonment and the events surrounding it. One of individuals has actually sustained an injury that has left him unable to work, another became an alcoholic, and another experienced fits of rage to the point when he had to turn to religion in order to find some kind of solace. The only one who seems less impacted by the events is one of the leaders of the initial movement, Chairman Park, who actually followed a different tactic than the rest in the trial, alienating himself from the other four, who actually blame him for that and as the man responsible for the consequences of the events in 2009.

Although all parties have become parts of groups that try to come to the truth of what really happened during the twenty-five hours of the strike, and particularly during the SWAT raid, the animosity between the four and Chairman Park is more than obvious. Their attitudes take a rather heated turn during a meeting where they all participate, with the four directly accusing him of both the aforementioned aspects, in one of the strongest scenes in the documentary. Hong and Kim present both sides through personal interviews, but the fact is that Park is not as persuasive as he would like to be regarding his role, and the fact that he seems to be in better state than the others does not help him.

Apart from that aspect, the blame on the government and its practices is more than evident as the victims still cannot "swallow" the fact that they were accused and convicted, despite the obvious, and that they were also victims. This aspect is what continues to ruin them, along with the truth of what really happened, although the committee for uncovering the truth helps greatly.

The footage from the incident is, once more, revealing, with the duo continuing their research and finding even more than they did in "2 Doors", in a work that actually seems relentless, as they seem not to have stopped at all during all these years. This element is mirrored in both the situation of the five, which is presented through each year, and the outcome of the area, which was supposed to be demolished in order for new buildings to be erected.

I found "The Remnants" even more shocking and revealing that "2 Doors" and a meaningful and very interesting documentary. Once more, though, I felt that it could have been a little briefer, since, at 133 minutes it is a bit difficult to watch. Nevertheless, I have to applaud the thoroughness and the relentlessness of the two directors in pursuing a subject that most would consider a lost cause for the victims, and presenting it with realism and artistry.

Review by Panos Kotzathanasis

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"The Remnants" is directed by Kim Il-rhan and Lee Hyuk-sang.

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