DIFF 2013 Film Review: Azooma – A South Korean movie about a pedophile and a mother’s revenge

Movie Review by: Mut Asheru

Playing at this year’s Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF 2013) is the Korean drama Azooma (공정사회). A  gut-twisting tale of a mother’s revenge  directed/written by Lee Ji-seung (이지승). Overall I liked it. This Busan International Film Festival  winner is about a pedophile that kidnaps and rapes a 10-year-old girl and her Mother is left to deal with the aftermath of bringing the offender to justice. But who’s justice? societal or vigilante? And one can’t help but wonder what they would do in this situation. I know what the hell I would do (Lorena Bobbit anyone?) and that’s why this film does strike a nerve. It forces you to search yourself and find your solution.

azooma movie posterWhen the crime is reported to the police, Young Nam is bitterly disappointed by the their bureaucracy and the exceedingly slow investigation. The overworked police bureau doesn’t seem to care and the judicial system is not set up to deal with this situation. Besides actually catching someone in the act the burden of proof is ultimately on the rape victim. Even if she is a traumatized 10-year-old.

After trying and failing several times to get justice for her daughter – mostly because of the indifference and inaction of the police – Young Nam sets out to catch the rapist and exact revenge in the only way she knows:  vigilante justice.

Flashbacks were heavily relied on to tell this story.  Past-to-present and back to past again. With that said, the technique serves its purpose of explaining while moving things along. While a future pointing time-lined script would have probably worked just as well I didn’t find the employed use of flashbacks to be a hindrance.

Lead actress Jang Young-nam (who I adore in the Civil Servant Level 7) has the kind of face and screen presence you can believe in. Her delivery as frustrated, bewildered mother is palpable. Ma Dong-seok (마동석) played the role of over-whelmed slightly un-caring Detective Ma very well. I wanted to reach through the screen and slap him.  I’m sure playing a pedophile is difficult but to his credit Hwang Tae-gwang (황태광) plays this un-remorseful sicko with aplomb. One of the most disturbing scenes comes when rapist and mother are both being hauled to the police station in the backseat of the same car. The rapist starts to whisper in the mother’s ear how her baby loved being raped and was continuously calling out for help during the ordeal.

People want to believe there exist justice in our society. Yet, most people feel the society in which we live is unjust especially when the bureaucrats are incompetent not to mention indifferent to socially disadvantaged group of people,” said director/writer Lee. “From a mother and a woman’s point of view, this film shows how a frustrated mother struggles to fight against social injustice and in-abilities of the legal system. It tells the story in a unique way that is mixed with past, present and the future.”

AZOOMA will be shown in the Dallas International Film Festival (DIFF 2013) at The Magnolia Theater April 11.  For more info go to www.dallasfilm.org.

No rating, 75 minutes
Director: Lee Ji-seung
Cast: Youngnam Jang, Don Lee, Taekwang Hwang, Songwoo Bai 배성우, Jaehee Lee
Screenwriters: Lee Ji-seung, Hyunwoo Kim, Kim Hyeong-guk
Producers: Sungjin Lyu, Jiseung Lee, Hyunwoo Kim
Cinematographer:  Hwang Ki-seok, Yoon Joo-hwan
Production designer: Youngchan Park
Music Supervisor: Jung Jin-ho
Sound Supervisor: Jinsoo Hwang (SoundDog)
Costume designer:  Yoojin Kwon
Editor: Shin Mi-kyung
Visual effects supervisor:  Seongho Jang (Mofac)
Production companies: Cinema Factory
Makeup/Hair/Special Makeup: Sohee Kim, Yongkwan Kim


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