This year’s Jeju Women’s Film Festival conveyed a truly powerful balance of opinion and ideas, through exhibiting and fleshing out global, national and individually specific issues women are still fraught with today.
The festival started off on cheeky yet ostensibly truthful note with Doris Dorrie’s “The Hairdresser,” a film that looks at the life of a voraciously happy obese woman. It concluded with a powerful — and at times shocking for a Korean audience — story of female sexual desire in Patricia Rozema’s “When Night is Falling.”
This year’s theme was “Women, the exploding power that turns the tables.” Looking at the opening and closing films, it may be difficult to see where this year’s theme was going, and perhaps that is exactly what the Jeju Women’s Association was shooting for. “It’s difficult to choose one theme,” says An Hye Kyoung, festival director, so they decided to categorize the festival into four sessions, with four clear issues in order to develop a relationship amongst all issues.
“We have a lot of different people with different ideas of women’s situation: from radical to conservative. So, we have to consider all audiences,” says An Hye Kyoung, festival director. “What if a woman is too conservative? She’ll reject the Women’s Film Festival forever.” The association tries to choose films with clear issues, focusing specifically on sexual identity, desire of women, immigrant wives, discrimination and female labour, says An.
That being said, in order to “turn the tables,” all four corners and all four legs, must be examined, offset and broken down, which is exactly what this year’s festival did with its four sessions.
Of the 33-screened films, 24 were available in English or with English subtitles.
The first session, “Hot Explosion” screened Yu Ji-Young’s “Confession,” which looks at the awakening of a devout Christian mother’s repressed desires after finding out her young son and his friend are watching porn.
The second session, “Familiar Strangeness,” walked us through experiences of loneliness, self-consciousness, aging, education, materialism and consumerism, and discrimination we’ve all found embedded in our own lives. It points out the strangeness we might feel from these experiences, and how it makes us real, similar, and familiar. This session screened such films as “100!,” “Flawed,” and “(The Importance of) Hair,” which deal with issues concerning our bodies through aging and loss. Films such as “Kopi Luwak” and “Mistranslation,” look at issues students face in and out of the classroom. “My Fancy High Heels,” examines all corners of consequence within a materialistic world. While, “Man Makes History,” and “The Witches” look at how women are discriminated by a patriarchal system.
The third session, “Looking at the world through the eyes of the minority,” explores the experience of living as a foreigner in another country, a person with special needs, a single parent, a young mother, a couple with HIV, and sexual identity. The line-up included, “Nima,” which tells the story of a new friendship between two love-motel cleaners, an illegal immigrant from Mongolia and a Korean woman who suffers abuse from her husband. Another notable film was “Now He Is a She,” which chronicles how a husband and wife cope with reversing a transgender, and the emotional ramifications after the operation. “My Mother’s Coat” was among the most uniquely beautiful animations in the festival. It told the story of a single mother and how her fur coat, which kept her daughter warm at the bus stop, was a metaphor for her own selflessness as a single parent. Lastly, “Tying Your Own Shoes” is a warming documentary that interviews several people living with Down syndrome and how their miraculous dreams, aspirations and accomplishments are ones we could only wish for.
The fourth session, “War and Women” packed a definite punch, discussing issues very close to Korea’s and, most specifically, Jeju’s current situation. Jane Jin Kaisen’s “The Woman, The Orphan, and the Tiger” interpretively examines the social, psychological and political ramifications of US’s military presence in Korea, focusing on how child adoptees and comfort women are still living the pain of their past. Ann Marie Fleming’s “I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors” and Ahn Hae-Ryoung’s “My Heart is not Broken Yet,” both mirror Jeju’s April 3 Massacre, says An. Lina Hoshino and Gwyn Kirk’s “Living Along the Fenceline,” fleshes out the pervasive effects of US military occupancy in Asia, pushing Jeju’s own Gangjeong Naval Base Protest to the forefront.
As for which films received the most feedback, “Cherry Blossoms-Hanami seems to be loved [by all] people beyond age, sex, class, race and country,” says An. However, “[people’s response] while watching “My Heart is Not Broken Yet” might have the highest. People seemed to be [right] in the film with granny Sonshindo,” says An. Ji-Min’s “2 lines,” also had great feedback, says An. This film chronicles an unmarried Korean couple who attempt to live outside the walls of the patriarchal marriage system. “In Korea, marriage is strongly bounded into [the husband’s] family,” says An. “A women wants to be with a man, but if [she marries him], their relationship [becomes] twisted.” The film’s title, “2 Lines” represents the two lines which indicate a positive pregnancy test, says An. It begs the question: Maybe you can avoid marriage, but can you have a child outside of matrimony in this patriarchal system?
This year saw 1,100 viewers. The opening film brought in a full house, says An. “[Typically] we use discussion and policies [to discuss women’s situation], but only a few people are interested in this. Film is the best way to let people know [the issues] in detail, to [see] through women’s eyes,” she said.
For instance, this is the first year the Women’s Film Festival has been held in September. July is not ideal for students, says An. “[In September] we can [incorporate] the films into the university’s curriculum, so students can watch the films and discuss them in class.” An has been collaborating with professors. “This year the ratio of selling [on-arrival] tickets was very high compared to the past, […] but the total amount of audience [has] decreased [due to, I think] the new date. There are so many other events [going on], but we’ll continue to have it in September.”
This year marked Jeju’s Women’s Film Festival’s 12th anniversary.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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