In an ongoing collaboration with the Essay Film Festival, the documentary strand of the LKFF has sought, among other things, to shine a light on the rich history and current practice of social and activist documentary in Korea. Following this interest across several years, we have organised sessions dealing with the emergence of independent non-fiction film after the 1980s and filmmakers and filmmaking collectives working amid social movements. The practice of activist media, which exploded in tandem with the organisation of labour unions and the student movement, continues strong today and concerns many other aspects of society: struggle for women’s rights, films about environmental issues, housing problems, LGBTQ+ rights, among others.
This year we have focused once again on two films that relate to labour issues. Sister J is a portrait of a man laid off from the factory job he had for thirty years and his struggle to overcome his desperate situation. Sewing Sisters is an inspiring film about a collective of women workers who reminisce about their lives in the textile and garment industry and their struggles for better rights and access to education in the late 1960s and 1970s. Documentaries such as these allow us to understand more about Korean society and the political uprisings that have defined its social and cultural history in the last decades. The inclusion of Sister J and Sewing Sisters within the programme of this year’s edition of the London Korean Film Festival underlines once more the importance and relevance of documentary filmmaking in Korea. When viewed alongside the wider feature film programme, it draws attention to the role cinema must play in bringing issues of social inequality and class divisions to the fore.