Film Short Review: “Modern Family”…A collection of 4 Korean short films taking aim at family issues

Review by: Carolina Jones

MODERN FAMILY (가족 시네마 ) is a collection of four short Korean films directed by Hong Ji-young (홍지영), Kim Seong-ho (김성호), Lee Soo-yeon (이수연), and Shin Su-won (신수원)that showcase the state of “family” in modern / futuristic Korea. These shorts are poignant peeks into the lives of four families who for better or worse suffer because of family.

korean short film modern family 2

CIRCLE LINE stars screen-chameleon  Jeong In-gi (정인기) as Sangwoo, a father who is struggling with the reality of caring for his family  after being recently laid off. Going back and forth to nowhere on the subway every day he has yet to tell his pregnant wife that he has been let go and is worried about how he’s going to take care of the baby. Sangwoo isn’t very talkative and the script doesn’t do much by way of revealing what he’s thinking. It is wholly left up to Jeong In-gi to relay the character’s inner tension and turmoil to the audience via facial expression and terse body language. This pivotal character in the hands of a lesser actor would have rendered this short an unwatchable disaster.

In A STAR-SHAPED STAIN (별 모양의 얼룩), actress Kim Ji-young (김지영) quietly shines as a mother not quite coping with death of her young daughter. At first she appears to be handling the loss very well but in actuality she’s refusing to wholly accept the reality. Her fragile hold is broken after she attends a memorial service where she hears a local man says he saw a ghost of a child wandering the woods with a “star shaped brooch” looking for her mother. The mother takes this as a sign that her child is not dead and is instead just missing. Beautifully shot and edited, this short is technically perfect.

korean short film modern family 2Set in 2030, E.D 571 tells the story of a 39-yeard-old single woman, Kim Inah (played by Seon Woo-seon
선우선 ) who sold her eggs in the past to help pay off her student loans. A workaholic, she has no desire whatsoever for a family.  One day, after arriving home late from work she finds a girl waiting for her in front of her house. In the car-ride home from work we hear on the radio how bad children have gotten and that kids as young as 12 had society shook all the hell up as they were committing murders, rapes and other atrocities.

Anywho, back to the girl waiting outside Inah’s house. Little miss thing tells Inah that she knows she’s her egg doner and threatens  to post everything on the web if Inah refuses to sign her name on the dotted line and become her legal guardian. Inah is like “pfft”…so…do it.  I’ll just get you drunk and call the po-pos after you pass out. And when you wake up…don’t come looking for me cause I done just taped yo little blackmailing ass with my cellphone. “Doh”.  This short left me scratching my head. I did not get it at all.

korean short film modern family 4IN GOOD COMPANY brings up the issue of maternity and work in Korean society through the story of Ji-won who gets fired for being pregnant. Okay, well technically she was asked to hand in her resignation as maternity leave is not acceptable? Are we still doing this Korea? Are my sister’s really going through this? It’s called hire a temp for 2 months to fill the slot if necessary. I doth digress.

Chulwoo (played by Lee Myeong-haeng 이명행), a magazine editor and all around good guy is ordered to lay off a pregnant female colleague who’s due date is fast approaching. Her fellow female co-workers are outraged (and rightly so) at the unfair dismissal and declare a strike. With the due date of the magazine approaching, Chulwoo tries to convince those on strike to stop the madness and get back to work. Meanwhile his pregnant wife goes into labor and he drops his work like a hot potato runs to the hospital.

Cinematically I have no qualms with this short. It was very well done. My western mind found it a little hard to follow as the scenario just doesn’t seem plausible. With that said, if family leave is indeed a problem in Korea, then kudos to the director for tackling it head on.

*screened at the 2013 Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF)*

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

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