[VIEWPOINT]It’s a film, not historical truth

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[VIEWPOINT]It’s a film, not historical truth

History is always a good source of inspiration for a movie. Viewers are thrilled to see the recreated history that they have only imagined in their minds. Furthermore, a movie producer can show his views on a particular segment of history and initiate a social debate.
That is why history is an attractive subject for a movie and why the Park Chung Hee era, remembered by so many people in various ways, is such an attractive subject for the movie producers.
In television, where documentaries have become an established genre, the Park administration has already been analyzed in numerous ways with different views. But in cinema, it was necessary to create fiction out of the Park era. Until now, no one possessed the special wisdom to handle the attractive subject. Many were probably hesitant because viewers still remember the period, and these filmmakers were not confident in portraying it beyond their imaginations.
As a result, some of the fictional movies about the Park Chung Hee era use a method of going to extremes by focusing on incidents that had been concealed but were nonetheless explosive. “Silmido,” which became a hit in Korea, was an example.
“The President’s Last Bang,” which will be in theaters in February, is also using the same method of emphasis ― stressing that the lives during he 1979 assassination of then-President Park were extremely different from those of today.
If someone were living a life in such a manner today, he or she would be a laughingstock, but at the time, Koreans were deadly serious. The movie tries to convey this atmosphere of the Park era to today’s viewers by employing the power of imagination, not historical basis.
Despite this, the movie has become more known as a historical portrait, one that chronicles the lives of actual individuals in history. Even before the movie goes into nationwide release, many critics, both professional and amateur, have had their say about the film.
A single-person protest took place at a press preview. He carried a sign that said, “Who has ended the poverty of this nation? The filmmaker must wake up, rather than abuse the freedom of expression!”
An opposition lawmaker has accused the movie of being highly political, made with sinister political motivations. A civic group activist said the movie weighed extremely heavily on him after seeing its portrayal of the Park era.
The most prominent of all the criticism was that of Park Ji-man, former President Park’s son. Mr. Park filed an injunction at the Seoul Central Court on Jan. 10, asking the court to block the film from public release because he said the movie dishonored the late president.
He also said the movie distorted history and infringed on human rights under the guise of the freedom of expression.
Park Geun-hye, the chairwoman of the Grand National Party, did not join the suit, but she voiced a similar opinion.
The court will issue a ruling around Feb. 1, just before the scheduled opening of the movie.
The reasons Mr. Park gave for filing a lawsuit are problematic. His view lacks understanding about a social character of a fictional film and cinematic techniques. It also lacks understanding about the people’s perceptions about a movie and marketing methods of commercial films.
Today, audiences do not judge history only through a movie; they do not see everything in a movie as an established fact. They are also likely to recognize the marketing tactics of commercial films that they find in the movie. But Mr. Park seems not to know these things.
The most serious problem with his view is that he does not respect the freedom of expression. He is judging the movie as if he was still living in the Park era.
At this point, Mr. Park and other family members of the late president should urge that more interpretations of history be made after this movie. They should provide constructive advice that could spark the “action and reaction principle” so that more new movies will be create to present other interpretations and views of the era in reaction to “The President’s Last Bang.”
The people who lived during the Park era are no longer living our reality, and we should communicate with each other and live our lives with wisdom. That is why the protester’s sign at the press screening felt more broad-minded than the late president’s son’s legal protest.

* The writer is a professor of communications and media at Sogang University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Won Yong-jin
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