PART OF OUR
“A FOCUS ON KANGYU GARAM” (Part 1)
Yes. Like the film in question, MMM has split this article into SECTIONS. Further reading of this article will reveal that I’ve used the same amount of sections as the film has.
In fact, and to make LIGHT of something – and not because this article deals with HEAVY subjects – if this post itself were part of an omnibus one, I’d call that “Double Square”.
Well… This will make more sense as you read on… but also, as we are talking about EIGHT sections and that’s the amount of sides TWO SQUARES have!
- 2020 meets 2017
- KANGYU GARAM
- AN INTERVIEW
- THE LKFF & ITS ‘NEW’ STRANDS
- MY CONNECTION TO SEWOL
- A LITTLE PREVIEW
- THE REVIEW
As the very unique 2020 edition of the London Korean Film Festival winds down, Mr MMM thought it would be fitting to highlight an event or two from a previous year’s festival.
Which year? 2017.
2020 meets 2017:
The LKFF 2017 was not only a good year for films and strands at the festival [I may be a little biased, as I’ve been covering and/or attending the festival since 2010 or just after] but 2017 was a year of big political change in South Korea.
Many will know that 2017 saw the Korean people say goodbye to Park Geun-hye, the President of South Korea since 2013.
There is another reason why I have chosen the London Korean Film Festival 2017 – one particular parallel we have drawn is that there were 2 events Mr. MMM was involved with which were connected to something close to the heart of our writer [me!]… I’ll elaborate.
These 2 occasions were concerning a particular film and a certain director. That director also had 2 films highlighted and brought to UK audiences in 2020, by both the LKFF and the KCCUK (Korean Cultural Centre, London – who are also the team behind the LKFF).
This director is KANGYU Garam.
Yes, those who ‘attended’ any of the online films of LKFF 2020 will no doubt have either seen one of these films, or at least seen that it was one of the film choices. That film was “Itaewon” – yep, by that acclaimed director, Kangyu Garam.
Not only this, another of her feature length documentaries, ‘My Father’s House‘ was available to watch, for a limited period on the KCCUK YouTube channel – there was also a special recorded introduction from the director available at that time.
Both of these films are very good.
In addition to this, those who may recall details from the LKFF 2017 will know that a mid-length film by Kangyu Garam was screened – that film was “Candle Wave Feminists“.
For some detail regarding that film and the Women’s Voices strand of that London Korean Film Festival  you may want to read the following article, within which is a link to a podcast where I discuss the strand and this film in particular … and my affinity with the cause [Sewol / the Sewol ferry].
As well as those 3 films, yours truly had the pleasure of interviewing Kangyu Garam when she visited London.
Until this time [‘Lockdown 2’ of 2020], and due to other reasons, it wasn’t possible to bring that interview to the readers of MiniMiniMovie.com and nor was any review of the latter film published. It is with great pleasure that MMM can now bring those to you – across two separate articles. The other [the INTERVIEW itself] can be found here:
Before we get into the review of “CANDLE WAVE FEMINISTS”, Mr. MMM just wants to say a few words about the 2017 edition of the London Korean Film Festival. I feel that without certain strands having been previously and quite recently [recently to LKFF 2017] introduced into the festival, films such as this one may not have ever been included.
So, let’s get all that out of the way with these few paragraphs.
THE LKFF & ITS ‘NEW’ STRANDS:
Amongst these positive items regarding 2017 and the London Korean Film Festival is the fact that the festival seemed to be a little more daring that year and I’m not referring to it being risqué. No, more that the strands or films within them did not shy away from the dark side of things [the Korean Noir strand, to name but one element], documentaries, independent film, and controversial or political matters.
Now, some may say that such elements or strands are NOT positive but in the LKFF’s defence – not that it needs to be defended – I disagree and welcomed such changes.
Even the Women’s Voices strand, having first appeared in 2016, in which focuses or focused – depending if we’re referring to the current year or previous – on female related film, was back again, as well as artist video/s… because after all, THEY are films too albeit shorter and … errr… more arty.
Then there are the masterclasses or talks / Q&As, the varied venues including university-linked ones, major cinemas, smaller cinemas and more.
Well, the following review or semi-analysis would actually fit into more than one of the above categories: Documentary; Women’s Voices; Political; Independent…
Yep… “CANDLE WAVE FEMINISTS”.
Firstly, this film intrigued yours truly [aka MMM), myself being a filmmaker, writer, artist and indeed part-time activist.
MY CONNECTION TO SEWOL [세월호]:
Not only have I been actively involved with and attended the Sewol (세월호) protests / memorials in the UK ever since the cruel incident happened in April 2014 (#16042014 – to be precise), I have also taken part in events in Korea and even visited the Sewol Ferry itself in Mokpo, South Korea. Sombre and sad occasions.
Latest Video Art (for ‘Sewol – 6 years on’) – by Jason Verney [aka MiniMiniMovie / @NativeNomadPics
There have been other Korean related protests, memorials and/or demonstrations which I have had a hand in, and even in 2017 itself I gave a little speech outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul [where the statue in memory and honour of ‘comfort women’ stands], plus a talk whilst on Jeju island which, amongst other aspects of Jeju it touched quite heavily on Gangjeong village and the navy base issue there.
Note: The links in those 2 paragraphs take you to videos / playlists on my YouTube channel (and here’s another – the main URL: http://www.YouTube.com/JasonVerney)
I’m very passionate about the feminist perspective or angle, or how Korean females may struggle in society there – because, through my friends, research and visits to Korea I’ve become intrigued by the woman’s role in South Korean society. I’ve been told many things by such Korean friends – whether it’s regarding first hand experiences of unfairness, misogyny or similar voiced concerns.
I was even in Seoul when the first, or one of the first anti President Park Geun-hye protests occurred in that city.
But back on with this review…
A LITTLE PREVIEW:
This film – essentially split into segments or sections – connects the latter female president, President Park Geun-hye with Sewol, women and injustices in the world… not to mention a murder. In addition to this, the various feminist groups are connected to one another and seeing the film yourself will help to understand how – although I do hope this review, analysis or breakdown gives a little insight.
It’s actually a short (or mid-length) film and initially part of an omnibus activist project called “Square” that called for the resignation of President Park Gun-hye. But, you know what…? I’ll give you the blurb from the London Korean Film Festival themselves (but also via the Seoul International Women’s Film Festival – SIWFF):
“Proud feminists save the nation!” That’s the claim that closes Kangyu Garam’s Candle Wave Feminists, part of an omnibus film project titled “Square”, which called for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye. The film’s closing image shows the huge crowds taking part in the protests in Gwanghamun Square – having introduced us to the many feminist activists among them. From the Ewha Womans University students who kickstarted the protests by revealing Choi Soon-Sil’s influence, to the coalition of activist groups that challenged the male-dominated left that took over, Candle Wave Feminists is an inspiring document from an accomplished filmmaker, showing that the feminist activism at the centre of the new politics goes beyond pussyhats to lasting political change.”
“This is one of the short films made as a part of an omnibus activist project called “Square” that called for the resignation of President Park geun-hye. A number of feminist organizations actively participated in the candlelight protests in Gwanghwamun Square. This lm focuses on interviews to articulate how feminists have experienced and understood a series of incidents including the Sewol Ferry Disaster and the Gangnam Murder Case under Park’s administration. It reflects women’s history written from a feminist perspective that does not forget to include the feminists during the rallies as “citizens” who dared to subvert society and history.” (SIWFF)
“CANDLE WAVE FEMINISTS”
What I will say before I go properly into my little review or dissection of the film is that it’s not an easy one to describe [although I’m hoping the above paragraph will help also]. Reasons for this include the fact that so many of the activist groups come from different angles yet collectively come together. As one example, we have feminists [as the title heavily suggests] but also a female president at the time. This alone throws out many questions and opposing or aligned statements.
At the very start… we’re at a protest.
An old-ish man is taunting female protestors and they come back with lines such as, “Stop trying to label us” and “We’re human beings”. The man continues, “Such pretty young women you are”.
And then, one last retort and great comeback from these females, before the titles, which is “Such a brave old man you are”.
We see that this film is split into sections of segments. The first segment is entitled “PREMONITION” but the following is a list of all of the 8 parts:
Although this article won’t include every individual or interviewee in the film, I can reveal that we are first introduced to various participants and interviewees, each stating a fact.
Soon, we are further introduced to these three women, characters, individuals:
Hwayong Shin (member of Femidangdang / 페미당당)
Jiann Woo (member of Femidangdang / 페미당당)
Miseup Sim (member of Femidangdang / 페미당당)
Femidangdang (or Femi Dang-dang / Facebook.com/FemiDangDang / @FemiDangDang [Twitter]) is a group which was “half-jokingly” set up in response to something else – this is mentioned later in the documentary.
Miseup Sim explains to us that other issues they’d been involved with – such as [round 2 of] ‘Black Riots against Criminalization of Abortion’ – had just finished, and this resulted in them moving over to the Candlelight marches.
It’s also stated that had they continued with the protests regarding abortion, people would only perhaps ‘protest about their protests’. In other words, individuals were bound to say something like “you’re pushing for legalised abortion at a time like this..?”
“We didn’t even go with a feminist agenda”, explains Miseup referring to when they joined the Candlelight marches or protests. In addition to this she talks about how people were trying to take photos of her, ‘as she’s so pretty’!
Jiwon Lee is a member of Gangnam Station Exit No. 10 (강남역10번출구) – see further down in this article for what this tragedy relates to – and Ms Lee advises us that she [President Park Geun-hye / 박근혜] had to go. After all, “She had destroyed democracy”.
For those interested there are various links available regarding Gangnam Station Exit No. 10 (강남역10번출구):- @10_gangnam_kr (Twitter); @exit_10_archive (10번 출구 아카이브 – Twitter); 강남역 10번 출구 아카이브 / Facebook.com/exit10archive; 강남역 10번출구_이우학교 자유발언대 /Facebook.com/2wooexit10
Also, in relation to President Park Geun-hye, Na Young [a member of the Network for Glocal Activism / 지구지연행동네틍워크 / Facebook.com/NGASF / @NGASF (Twitter)] states that the fact “that she was addicted to soap operas and cosmetic procedures are just facts about her” and continues, “There was no need to turn those facts into reasons why a female president is no good”- in fact, this writer [a male] says that even a man can have similar interests or equivalent addictions or habits.
Na Young soon states something which surely others are thinking or thought… that it should have been the issue of Sewol which brought her President Park Geun-hye down.
And another of these women says how hard the Sewol incident had hit her. So hard in fact that it was as if it had actually happened to her. She took it so personally that her life was in a mess. Perhaps that’s why she couldn’t feel a part of the “WE…(!)” –
This “WE” was being said or being spoken of in conversation at the time: e.g. “WE must be the agents of change” or “WE must join the Candlelight march”.
Gahyun [member of Flaming Feminist Action / 불꽃페미액션 / Facebook.com/flaming.feminist.action / @Flaming_Femi (Twitter)] talks of how how ajummas are ridiculed already and which President Park Geun-hye was/is classed as one.
Being ridiculed for being a woman of a certain age or even ‘type’ is one thing but misogyny is another [obviously], but an another interesting point which is brought up in this jam-packed mini documentary is that even some people say the Candlelight marchers themselves couldn’t have reached the million mark if it wasn’t for misogyny!
Speaking of misogyny, we also witness chants of many a thing, including “Misogyny has no place in the million candles!” but also “Molestation has no place in the million candles!” and “Ageism has no place in the million candles!” as well as many other chantings.
Vera (member/president of political party Yongidang, which means ‘Women Brave Together‘ (우리는 서로의 용기당 / Twitter: 용기당(운영하지 않는 계정입니다) / @Yongidang_) tells us – or rather, tells Garam Kangyu & crew who are listening – the following about things spoken to them by a certain speaker: “How commendable that pretty girls like you are taking an interest in political affairs!” – “such comments imply that the speaker surely doesn’t acknowledge us as equals”. I must agree with her!
Back on to the subject of President Park Geun-hye – and let’s face it, it’s hard to keep away from that when she and/or her government were so intrinsically linked to the Sewol Ferry tragedy – and we hear from Jung ha Won, a member of the group, ‘Feminist Action for Park Geun-hye’s Resignation‘ [박근혀 하야를 먼드는 여성주의자행동 / Facebook.com/hayafeminist / @hayafeminist(Twitter)].
It is stressed that this group was NOT put together just against President Park Geun-hye but for people who were against gender discrimination or who care for social change, and I guess other related issues.
The film, or rather the women explain (or at least one does) that they were getting recognised for being pretty or good looking. We are told that not being identified as a fellow citizen with the same position and status as the people judging them – or being a pretty girl; references to a sexualised body etc – can be like types of sexual harassment or violence themselves. In other words, or in my/MMM’s words, can such harassment be a form of violence itself?
This is not to mention the fact that drunk men also give them unwanted attention.
It’s safe to say that such harassment, violence or unwanted attention emanates from quite small-minded males, or if I was being nice or liberal towards these men, I would say these are simply conflicting ideas or views… But why would I do that? This writer believes in compassion, equality and love.
And on the subject of conflicting, there are so many conflicts and indeed conflicts of interest – or emotion? – in this film.
For example, people [or men!] are having a go at these women in some way and then one of the females witnesses that such male individuals also had the Sewol ribbon. It must have made them very confused as to what they they were fighting for at times – I’m not just saying this… at least one of the interviewees states it in this documentary.
There is talk of the responsibly of being, or even becoming a feminist and the question of whether they can really call themselves feminists… plus… what would people think was their reason or motivation for being a feminist? That’s a fear that’s touched on.
Whatever the, your, our, or their thoughts, a certain incident inspired more people to, perhaps, study feminism, or at least listen to feminists more – whether they be already feminist pals, female friends or acquaintances, or dare I assume, even strangers too!
What was this incident?
Was it a suicide? A homicide? No. It was a ’ Femicide’ and in the Gangnam area. Hence the “Gangnam Station Exit No. 10” group set-up and mentioned before. Basically – and terribly – a murder.
Concerning this most horrendous crime we hear from one or two of these interviewees and how ‘it could have been them’ especially because it’s a popular city worker area.
What followed was hundreds and hundreds of sticky, or Post-It notes from women, being placed in the area as well as crowds of women… and ultimately the forming of the “Gangnam Station Exit No. 10” group.
The irony, at least to this writer, is that this murder happened on May 17th – it suddenly made me think of another truly sad date in Korea’s tragic yet recent history, May 18th 1980, the date of the Gwangju Uprising [or for those who would rather it not be called that it has also been referred to as the Gwangju Democratization Struggle (광주 민주화 항쟁), the May 18 Democratic Uprising and/or the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement (5·18 광주 민주화 운동)].
That femicide definitely brought mostly women but also other people together. We are told of a certain hug received and upon which one of the women interviewed couldn’t stop going there, to that place. This was when that “Gangnam Station Exit No. 10” group was formed.
We hear from another female who, after this incident, really only started identifying herself as a feminist – before this time she simply regarded feminism as the only way to explain the injustices she saw… but once she started to take to the streets, it was when she’d really take action and talk publicly about feminism.
Around this point and hardly surprisingly, there is discussion about misogyny in the political parties as well as the mention of hate crimes against women. It’s also stated or alluded to [or perhaps MMM just assumes] that this was the main reason behind the Femidangdang group being created. More about such misogyny in a few paragraph’s time.
We are told that It wasn’t long after the Femicide that they took to the streets and with each carrying mirrors decorated like funeral portraits. This was to reflect one another as they marched. They started at Gangnam exit 10, of course.
All these groups (and I believe others) ultimately had a need, personal reasons and also for reasons linked to what they stand or stood for, to join the Candlelight marches.
Furthermore, they needed to create a FemiZone. But why?
Well, you could say that it was a place for all women connected to all these different groups, organisations and/or activism collectives, where they could have have some collectivism and feel at home. Or even to not get harassed, abused, heckled or whatever you want to call it. I surmised it was both of these reasons, from the interviews in the film.
Another reason though and perhaps an equally strong one was that it was LIBERATING! Liberating, if only from the rest of the main marching or rallying, or protesting crowds.
This feeling of liberation must have felt extra great for the younger females. In fact, as this 40 minute long documentary continues we hear that those within the Femizone were mostly young women… And young women who are seen to be going AGAINST mostly Older Men [because in the parties who have been doing all the wrong and being unjustly are mostly older guys – that’s my take on what the film was saying at this point].
The film expresses – either via interviewees or protests, or both – that these women want a feminist president too, not just a feminine one.
We witness, at one of the rallies the words “Our weapon comes from solidarity, not hate” and we also hear words such as these, “Proper democracy can’t co-exist with misogyny…” and also “Solidarity with the disabled and socially marginalised, with feminists and sexual minorities”.
These women will no longer tolerate ant-women language either. They would then, and indeed still would & hopefully DO STILL insist on these very words being listened to: “Don’t use discriminatory language!” – Of course, other words and statements are made and indeed chanted. I say, more power to them!
For any speaker at such rallies and/or protests, who would be hoping (or shouting!) to topple President Park Geun-hye from her position, it’s again stated, or reiterated by one or more of the women in this documentary that this is about her [P G-H] not being a good president etc, a criminal and the abuse of power… And that it’s not about anything else really. For example, it would not simply be about President Park Geun-hye being a wealthy ajumma or even that she’s a female.
The women shown even got organisers to make apologies for any unacceptable language, or perhaps ‘words’ or ‘accusations’. We also hear that this was the FIRST IN HISTORY for this!
Amongst the Backlashes in the BACKLASH segment of this film are a certain band whose lyrics caused issues. That band is DJ DOC. It even resulted in their gig, which was set for one of the rallies, to be cancelled. Let’s just say the fans, and maybe the band itself were not very nice to these females and their feminist groups.
Why is is there nearly always a backlash? I can’t say, but it seems these women, or really ANY women, can’t get justice. There’s always a backlash, as we are told.
From backlash to attacks. Yes, we are also advised that women activists such as these shown are often attacked once they are no longer anonymous. Therefore, they even wear masks or similar coverings just to try and prevent this.
If all this, so far, seems angered or a little negative or dark there is seemingly some light at the end of the tunnel.
You see, we hear that these women and indeed these types of groups they belong to are a “force to be reckoned with” and also that ‘it’s a good thing that there are things like those backlashes and nasty comments’. Reassuringly, some good has come out of doing all what they have done, or continue to do. People are starting to listen.
As the film nears its end we are given some other pieces of information. Such as, the fact that many of the women are PART-TIME activists and that although bad times they may have been [and no doubt in the future] they feel the good things make it all worthwhile. They simply fight even harder.
SIGNAL FLARE. In this final section of the film, the part which many viewers are surely waiting for arrives. The moment when President Park Geun-hye is impeached, ousted etc. This must have been a proud and pleasing moment for our activists and indeed for many of our [and MY] Korean friends everywhere. We can see the joy on screen when the words “President Park Geun-hye is hereby removed from office” are announced.
[CENTRAL] SIDE-NOTE: I won’t hide the fact that when all this was happening, in real life I too was ‘quite’ happy about the outcome. I even made this little meme, picture or mini-mini piece of art:
Let’s say it again, but LOUDER,
“PRESIDENT PARK GEUN-HYE IS HEREBY REMOVED FROM OFFICE”
That announcement is followed by one of the interviewees stating, “If the scandal and the Candlelight protest had happened before 2016, I doubt our voices could have been this loud”. Was it thanks to President Park Geun-hye that they become more aggressive or proactive overall? It would certainly seem that way.
With these positive paragraphs in mind, what better way to bring this review to a close than a note on how the film itself is also closed. A few good words regarding misogyny, the marginalized and power follow, including one line in particular from one of the ladies, “The only thing I ask of the next government is a feminist president who will approve the anti-discrimination bill”.
Before the credits are two wonderful shots of the Candlelight protestors in the Gwanghwamun Square area, I believe and the latter of the two showing candles, not only being held but also many, many being, what appears to be, moved in the form of a Mexican ‘Wave’… Perhaps giving a different take on the middle word of this wonderful, powerful and very meaningful documentary.
FINAL THOUGHTS (using the confusing ENGLISH LANGUAGE):
The females involved in these justified actions of activism have not COMMITTED any crime.
These activists are COMMITTED women, dedicated, honestly & righteous
– not women who should be, dare I say it, COMMITTED!