The homeless and generally dispossessed population in South Korea doesn't get all that much attention. In all fairness they don't really get that much attention anywhere, since acknowledging the existence of a homeless population is detrimental to any country's self-image. Moreover, what spotlight there is rarely ever falls on the dispossessed people themselves, but rather the organizations which try to help them, and what they want potential donors to see.
"Hide Behind the Sun" is not an expos้ of any sort, even if the picture it paints of the organizations that help the homeless is rather ambivalent. The documentary largely takes places from the point of view of Sang-hyeon, a man who, while dispossessed, is still physically and mentally capable of making a contribution to society. He sees other homeless people as friends, and so too does director Lee Chang-jun show them as being normal men and woman whose main shortcoming is that they don't have anything to do all day and are thus somewhat bored.
Charity organizations provide a decent amount of help, but the problem is they don't offer any lasting solutions. While they can give homeless people the bare necessities (like food) to get them through the day, the charities can't really do much about lifestyles. While teaching a man to fish is obviously preferable to simply giving him a fish, ultimately, it's just too difficult to achieve the former. The process it time-consuming and there are too many homeless people who need help.
But Sang-hyeon doesn't give up. He decides to just work within the system that's available, and so "Hide Behind the Sun" goes in travelogue, visiting various random cities all around South Korea helping people. That's the main interesting aspect to "Hide Behind the Sun", is simply the way it gives a good look at the homeless lifestyle on the terms of homeless people themselves. They're always just normal people down on their luck, not immaculate angels or vicious drug dealers.
Which in its own way is a bit of a compliment. While "Hide Behind the Sun" never broaches the topic directly, I found myself thinking about how the South Korean government has been very good at stifling the illicit drug trade, and that this probably has a lot to do with why so many of the homeless people seen in this documentary remain largely functional. This only punctuates the difficulty, though, in realizing they don't seem to have much of a place in modern society.
"Hide Behind the Sun" doesn't get into any kind of serious moral reckoning over these subjects because ultimately, to the man on Sang-hyeon's level, there just isn't that much to be gained from trying to critique the system or instituting widespread change. A person can be happy living just in the spirit of camraderie and fellowship, if that's all that's available, and even if the ending ultimately proves sad, it's nice to know that Sang-hyeon was able to find something other than doom and gloom in life. Hope, in whatever form, can suffice.
Review by William Schwartz
Staff writer. Has been writing articles for HanCinema since 2012, having lived in South Korea since 2011. Started out in Gyeongju, then to Daegu, then to Ansan, then to Yeongju, then to Seoul, lived on the road for HanCinema's travel diaries series in the summer of 2016, and is currently settled in Anyang. Has good tips for utilizing South Korea's public bus system. William Schwartz can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Hide Behind the Sun""
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