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[HanCinema Report] JIFF: Day Two


"My Place" by Emmanuel Moonchil Park'

No, you didn't miss a Day One report. My plane got in late last night so I missed the opening night festivities- not a big issue. As with any film festival, the highlight of JIFF is the films and I've set off running with three.

"Groggy Summer": Directed by Yun Su-ik, this is the story of a young man who's trying to reconcile his desire to be an artist with the overwhelming pressure to enter university. The plot is reasonably interesting, and I was impressed with the unusually unromantic outlook on what the life of an artist really means. Unfortunately, it's very difficult to empathize with the lead character the more decisions he makes in the film. What's worse, the camerawork is just perplexing. Nearly every single shot is a close-up of a character's face. It's often extremely difficult to tell what's going on in individual scenes, and I have a lot of trouble remembering what the sets were even supposed to look like, they were so fragmented. Compounded with overuse of shaky cam, I have difficulty seeing this film find any interest outside of a very specialized and unusually patient audience.

"Paparoti": This is one of the mainstream movies being played at this year's festival as part of the Korean Cinemascape selection. The story involves a gangster and his dreams of becoming a great opera singer. The movie has several aspects going for it- the cast has great chemistry, and there are a lot of solid punchlines. The main problem is that it veers heavily into drama, melodrama, and features an overabundance of cliched tropes even bearing in mind the premise. At over two hours long, the movie feels eternal and long outstays the welcome it earns from its good points. On a more positive note, director Yoon Jong-chan was available for a Guest Visit and the questions fielded from the audience had some very interesting answers. This will be given more coverage in a forthcoming HanCinema article.

"My Place": My first two films of the festival were a bust, so I came into "My Place" a little disinheartened. But I quickly became deeply engrossed in this documentary, the very emotionally charged story of director Emmanuel Moonchil Park's relationship with his family. What starts out as the seemingly simple story of the prodigal pregnant daughter coming home morphs into an incredible, subtle commentary about how culture influences people in a transnational context. People who make poor choices come out in the long run as being better off for it, whereas the ones who make good choices end up doing accidental long-term damage.

In most films this would be discomforting messaging- but "My Place" has a serious sense of reality about it that makes its ethical points impossible to place in a broad context. It realizes that mistakes are always contingent on the individual making them- and the ability to correct them depends entirely on how far we're genuinely willing to go to insure a good outcome, even if this means making deals and going places we never would have expected. The profoundly personal subject matter has made me seriously rethink the way that I view other human beings, and realize how fragile our seemingly indestructible personal preconceptions really are.

If I see any other film at this festival that even approaches the quality of "My Place" I will be amazed. This is legitimately the best documentary I've ever seen. There will be more coverage of it in HanCinema as well- both a review of the Question and Answer session, in addition to an exclusive interview with Emmanuel Moonchil Park, will later be posted.

Report by William Schwartz

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