DIR: Ki-yong Park | Dragons & Tigers| South Korea | 2013 | 79 min. | DCP
Sun, Sep 28 10:50 am | International Village #9
Watch VIFF Program Updates for additional screenings
Veteran Korean filmmaker Ki-yong Park’s latest project has no actors, no characters and no plot. The setting (and the subject) is simply the film’s namesake: Garibong, a ramshackle neighbourhood in southwestern Seoul that is home to a growing community of Chinese immigrants and migrant workers. Through a progression of nothing but completely static camera shots in locations across the town, one gradually becomes embedded in this community of outsiders. The cramped employment office reeks of indecision and helplessness. Narrow streets and dark alleyways echo with lonely footsteps. Extended, mundane glimpses into barbershops, medical clinics, flophouses and telephone centres simultaneously frustrate with their monotony and overwhelm with the amplified ambient noises of doorbells, footsteps, traffic and conversations.
The intimacy of the film is palpable, and a nod to Park’s inside access is definitely in order. Yet the total absence of story, context or narration quickly leaves the uninformed filmgoer bored and frustrated (at least a half-dozen Saturday morning VIFFers walked out during the screening). While tedious and at times odd, the majority of the shots are nonetheless perfectly composed, beautifully lit, candid, and impactful—a lone bicycle in an alleyway, a dilapidated Chinese grocery—better suited, perhaps, to a live multimedia art exhibition than an 80-minute film.
Those familiar with Chinese-Korean immigration politics, migrant worker culture and/or cinematographic composition will find beauty and honesty in this work, also enjoying its international premiere at VIFF. Those seeking quick, Film-Fest entertainment best look elsewhere.