By: Muziah Kargbo
On March 28th and 29th, the Triangle East Asia Consortium (or TEAC) hosted the Transnational Korean Cinema and Media Conference at the FedEx Center here at UNC. I was fortunate enough to attend both days and though I wasn’t present the whole day on Friday, I still got a lot out of the different panels and discussions that took place.
The first day of the conference focused on screening films from directors Juhui Kwon and Nick Neon. Let me give a short introduction from the pamphlet I received at the conference which describes these creative indie filmmakers and their films.
https://www.juhuifilms.com/ (Personal Website)
Kwon is an independent writer-director based in NYC, hailing from South Korea. Her early films have stemmed from a diaspora theme and essay film genre.
Frank’s Plan (2018)
A short film about a recent retiree named Frank who lives alone in his Staten Island house. He spends his free time staking out the house of his new Korean neighbors in the hopes that he will find something “nefarious” about them. But when he gets caught, his plan gets flipped upside down.
Feature Movie (2012)
This is a slightly longer film, clocking in at about an hour. It is about an aspiring film student, Soohyun, who is stuck making her first feature film. Her main obstacle is that her search for meaning only turns into nihilistic thoughts. The more effort she puts into making the film, the less there is that she wants to make a film about. Will she be able to get out of this block and become a real “artist?” We will find out by sneaking a peek into her journals.
https://www.nickyneon.com/ (Personal Website)
Neon is an award-wining Korean American filmmaker and actor. He is best known for his short films following Jimmy Park, a 20-something and lost gay man struggling with identity (he is played by Neon himself in the films).
Ultra Bleu (2016)
Seoul, 2013. Jimmy Park has had a really rough night after confronting his cheating boyfriend and getting himself kicked out of a bar by a drag queen bouncer. Waking up the nect evening to a quiet blue, he heads to a river where a chance encounter with a stranger reveals deeper issues he must confront on the path to adulthood.
Zero One (2018)
A direct sequel to Ultra Bleu, Jimmy Park’s visiting home for the first time in years and has nothing to show for his time overseas. But old tensions come to a head when he confronts his homophobic sister over a deeply, dysfunctional family dinner. On New Year’s Day 2014, Jim will learn that the first step to finding our path is admitting we are lost.
Personally, I enjoyed all 4 movies though admittedly I found the visuals and coloring of Neon’s films to be quite beautiful and unique while Kwon’s films really had this quirky Koreanness that was entertaining and interesting to watch. While both explored different narratives and ideas, the themes converged to show different sides of a diasporic nature which is one of the main themes explored through these film screenings.
During the Q & A held after the screenings, Neon admitted that he hadn’t seen his films being diasporic in nature but really stemmed from a need to tell his story in a way that is shown through his particular perspective. But he did go on to say that this diaspora element is important as it gave him an outsider’s perspective that he grew to like as he got older.
As for Kwon, she was inspired from her own personal observations living in New York where she felt a lot of Korean-Americans are “living in a bubble” a quote from her friends. Since this seemed to be the case, she wanted to show a part of what was held inside the minds of Korean-Americans as best as she could through the movies she wrote and directed.
Honestly, I could go on and on about these two filmmakers and the screenings held that day but I will refrain from that for now and tell you, the reader, to go and discover more about Juhui Kwon, Nick Neon, and their films yourself. I’ve linked their personal websites as a starting point but Google is also your friend and I highly advise you to use it because both their visions and stories deserve more attention and even if it’s just one more person than who knows how much of a difference that can really make?
Next, stay tuned for part 2 of this post where I will be discussing day 2 of the conference and some of the panels presented by some very intelligent and passionate professors.