Directed by Chan-wook ParkSouth Korea | 2000
What is so remarkable in J.S.A. is that this story of male friendship is not forged in the thick of combat, the romantic notion of so many war films, nor is it specifically destroyed by it, the reserve of that other type of war story. Instead, though they meet their ends through violence, what is pointedly asserted is that the patriotism, base dehumanisation, and otherness espoused by the military prevented anything from blooming from the seeds the men sowed. Their work was for nought while it destroyed them. Even as Major Jean discovers the truth, she recognises it must be obscured and buried. What greater tragedy could one imagine? Like seeing the Berlin Wall come toppling down only to see no one willing to step over the divide.
Yet dissidents and defectors report that – as usual – laws are for poor people. The “few in Pyongyang,” with “disposable income have access to Western DVDs, South Korean sitcoms and even pornography smuggled in from China.”
Directed by Daniel GordonUnited Kingdom | 2004
Though beautiful, and perhaps the envy of choreographers around the world, the scope, scale and frequency of these exhibitions points to a culture deprived of alternatives. If this is the cost of such beauty then can it be justified? Such is the portrait of this country through Gordon’s lens. Though never openly critical (the film actually won two awards at the Pyongyang International Film Festival) it tells us plenty about this nation’s dangerous failings through simple association. Nonetheless it also assures, even surprises us, with the bright, good-natured and warm dispositions of its subjects.