The six films introduced in the Women’s Voices programme of the London Korean Film Festival illuminate the theme of “women in relationships,” using diverse formats to explore the various difficulties women face in their interpersonal interactions. These difficulties are strongly rooted in reality, which can invoke a sense of frustration, but through the deep concerns and numerous formats presented in these films, audiences are able to view the world through new perspectives and with new possibilities.
In recent Korean films, there is a noteworthy tendency to focus on the relationship between mother and daughter, in particular a mother-daughter relationship that is entangled by complex emotions among other family members. These mothers and daughters hate and love each other, feel comfort and discomfort with each other, and see their pasts and futures in each other. Some movies that explore these aspects of the mother-daughter relationship include both dramas like The Apartment with Two Women or Missing Yoon and documentaries like Welcome to X-World, among others.
A Table for Two, featured in this festival, is a documentary film that examines the deep and intimate foundations of the mother-daughter relationships by focusing on a daughter, Chaeyoung, who suffers from an eating disorder, and her mother, Sang-ok, who is raising Chaeyoung alone. Director Kim Bo-ram originally set out to explore why so many young Korean women in their teens and 20s show symptoms of disordered eating, but after meeting Chaeyoung and Sang-ok, discovered that such symptoms are often closely related to both social conditions and close interpersonal relationships. The film also portrays those individuals who listen carefully to the concerns of the main subjects and support them in renewing their relationship.
The festival also features three short films, My Annoying Mother, A Room of Two Women’s Own, and My Little Aunt, all three of which take mother-daughter relationships as their main theme.
My Annoying Mother features a young woman named Gayoung, who dreams of becoming a film director, despite opposition and discouragement from her mother. She feels that a mother should cheer for, encourage, and help her daughter, yet her mother belittles her and criticises her skills and studies. To express her feelings, Gayoung chooses to make a movie about how much she hates her mother. The film My Annoying Mother maintains a bright and cheerful atmosphere until the end, and the use of film and direction as a plot device allows audiences to explore both sides of the mother-daughter relationship.
A Room of Two Women’s Own is a short film about housework, which is essential to our lives but is rarely respected as a “job.” In the film, writer Ji-young is struggling to keep up with her housework. There are two people in her life who want to help her out: her mother, and a ghost in her apartment named Muyoung (a Korean word meaning “nameless”). The film explores Jiyoung’s desire to rewrite her relationship with her mother while distancing herself from the things her mother takes care of for her.
Finally, My Little Aunt tells the story of the friendship between 12-year-old Soyoung and her aunt Ji-ran. It focuses on the idea of “liberation of the chest,” and happily depicts portraits of women of different generations set against the backdrop of Jeju Island. The women in this film display a sense of freedom despite their expectation of disharmony from the men in their lives, and the film depicts the life of and subtle changes in Soyoung’s mother, who is fairly conservative in personality. These three short films each explore the topic of “care” in their own way.
The final films of the program are animated short films That Summer and How to Get Your Man Pregnant.
That Summer is the story of two girls who met and fell in love as teenagers. Their romance is set against a watercolour-like background that makes their love story seem soft and dreamlike. At age twenty, the two girls head into the city, but struggle to find their place in the world as they search for money, dreams, relationships, and their own queer identities. The film demonstrates how closely the personal, intimate act of love is linked to the social conditions that surround them.
Finally, How to Get Your Man Pregnant uses the lens of science fiction to examine the practical problems of pregnancy and childbirth. The contrast of the witty dialogue with the serious setting in which male pregnancy is possible enables both pleasant laughter and a thoughtful consideration of the issues presented.
These films showcase the wide variety of ways in which films can express the problems that women face socially, as well as the concerns that plague them in their interpersonal relationships. Through these six colourful works, audiences have the opportunity to listen closely to the voices of female creators that are resonating in Korea.