First, the listings at koreamovietimes.org are not current… which is too bad, because someone took the time to translate them into English for us…anyway, always double-check, but I’m not sure how to do that…
I got to the theater in Gangdong and there were only three of us watching. :( The usher boy was really nice to me, and got me from the lobby and found my seat for me, because he knew I couldn’t speak Korean.
Glad I went by myself, though, as I was sniffling from almost the very beginning. (things that wouldn’t make anyone else but maybe me tear up, because I know and love an adoptee who went to St. Paul’s Orphanage and was there at the same time as the main character Jin-Hee, which was based upon the life story of the director, Ounie Lecomte)
It’s a beautiful movie, I loved the period 70’s clothing, and it was shot entirely from the perspective of a child, I guess in the manner of Truffaut. It’s also a very Korean piece. A lovely image then rip your beating heart out of your chest and slowly shred it kind of Korean film. I have learned, with my talks with the Korean documentary director and the artist Jeong Ae, that it is CRITICAL for Korean audiences that there be something beautiful in every sad story. This is why adoptees have a hard time relaying their struggles, because the amazing beautiful people we are gets lost in the relaying of a difficult story. So this is why Lacomte’s rendition is important for us, as a model.
The story isn’t really about adoption, though. It’s about abandonment and loss. Which is part of adoption, yes. But it’s not critical of adoption or Korea or political or anything. It just relays how Jin-Hee faces each new unknown while haunted by and holding onto the memory of her father. We follow her as she tries to deal with her anger over being so powerless and as she develops relationships with some of the other “orphans.” (I don’t consider abandoned children technically orphans, since they have living parents) Some have hope for a better life. Some have resignation. Some have unbroken spirit and defiance. All are hurting in their own way. All must sing a farewell song as the ones who are chosen get sent away to foreign countries. Especially heart-breaking is the device of Jin-Hee and her best friend Sook-Hee’s interest in caring for a broken bird. I won’t spoil it, but only say that little people are fully formed humans and experience trauma and heartbreak in all the same way adults do. Their souls can be crushed. (it’s not what you imagine) They also think about existence and what that means.
All of the above without benefit of English subtitles, so I’d like to see it again and be privileged to eavesdrop on the children’s conversations one day.
Part of me would like to see a sequel, but then I think no, this is where it must end. For us, there are three chapters in our lives: chapter 1 – prior to our separation with our original families, chapter 2 – in transition and prior to our second separation, and chapter 3 – adapting to our new and not always better life. We adoptees long to have our birth country understand chapter 3, and to rediscover our pre-amnesia chapter 1, but nobody has really portrayed chapter 2 before and what THAT did to us. It’s more powerful standing alone. I just wish all Korean people could see it.
I looked for my friend Myung Sook, and there were two or three that I imagined could have been her. Myung Sook’s amazing recall of her life before adoption, her life at St. Paul’s, and her horrific post adoption life will, I hope, one day be in book form. Unlike most Korean adoptee memoirs, all the chapters are there.
Mr. Lee wants to write a book about my life, but fears too much will be lost because he isn’t confident in his English skills. Maybe I should let him…