[Outlook]The order of filmsIf there had not been controversy, I would not have hurried to see “May 18” and “D-War.”
The second movie had a free admission promotion. Many must have rushed to get their tickets wondering, “What’s the problem with this movie?”
I do not intend to analyze the aesthetic structure or symbolism of either movie. I simply do not have the capacity.
But myself and others of my generation who went to college in the 1980s have always had the Gwangju massacre in the corner of our hearts. So May 18 felt different from other movies.
I had been to movie theaters with my son to watch films like “Transformers” and “Harry Potter,” so I wanted to see a Korean film in the same genre.
And I wondered why so many people were talking about D-War.
The film has been criticized for being too patriotic. The traditional folk song “Arirang” is used as background music. The movie has subtitles that say it will conquer the U.S. market.
The criticism is that the movie depends too heavily on patriotism. Shim Hyung-rae, the director of the movie, appeared on TV and shed tears.
People criticized this, saying the director was trying to win people’s hearts with something other than the movie itself.
But May 18 is not much different. The movie has a serious subject, of course. It is about the democracy movement in Gwangju in 1980.
But the movie has also benefitted hugely from public promotion.
The film premiered within a couple of months of the presidential election, so presidential hopefuls in the ruling party circle rushed to cinemas to see it.
Everyone said they were deeply moved.
Some teachers at private essay writing schools have told their students to watch the movie as material for class debates.
Outside Seoul, employees in government bodies have gone to see the movie in group.
Because of these circumstances, I had a prejudice against both movies.
One is using the democracy movement for political and commercial purposes, while the other is using patriotism or nationalism for promotional purposes.
But after watching the movies, I changed my mind.
I have to confess that both of the movies are good.
When I watched the D-War, I couldn’t believe it was made with computer graphics. Other people around me seemed to feel the same way.
While watching May 18, I found myself crying several times. When I got out of the cinema, I saw that there were other people whose eyes were red.
Whatever film critics may say, I didn’t feel it was a waste of money to see these films.
I’m sure other people feel the same because more than 5 million have watched D-War.
But I want to say something about the controversy that D-War tries to exploit patriotic sentiments.
When the director’s monologue appears at the end of the movie in subtitles, I wondered whether that method would work in the United States. Nevertheless, it is strange that the movie industry in Korea criticizes D-War for that reason.
The Korean film industry has been mired in patriotism, crying out that we must protect the screen quota system. It does not make sense that it is okay to cry out for patriotism in a candle lit vigil but it is not okay to talk openly about it in a film.
There are people who claim that U.S. movies will ruin the entire Korean movie industry.
Then there is Shim, who does his best to sell his Korean movies to the U.S. market.
Whom should audiences side with? Many people support Shim and I do not think they do so just because they are patriotic.
Both May 18 and D-War are box office hits. One offers something to think about and the other offers something to watch.
I hope that D-War’s premiere in the United States next month will be a success, even though it won’t be easy.
I will offer a tip. The two movies are opposites.
One is about a very grave and unpleasant historical fact and the other is about a prosperous legend.
So it could be an unpleasant experience to see May 18 first, a movie in which demonstrators are killed in brutal ways, and then watch D-War afterwards.
It will be like watching a comedy at a place of mourning.
I wonder if movie critics condemned D-War in part because they had just seen May 18, which premiered shortly before.
Fortunately, I watched D-War first.
*The writer is the senior city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Chong-hyuk