In the Cheonggyecheon district of Seoul, merchants started casting metal from military war scraps after the Japanese occupation. Generations later, iron workers continue their labor by hand in an era where technology has far surpassed their industrial skills.
Filmmaker Kelvin Kyung Kun Park locates his experimental fever dream in this waning world, composing a letter to his deceased grandfather who once ran his own scrap metal business. His stream-of-consciousness narration, haunting archival footage, and palpable aural and visual textures begin to question whether society has progressed or regressed under the specter of technology. [Synopsis courtesy of Los Angeles Film Festival]
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Narrative Feature and Documentary Competition at the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Los Angeles Film Festival on June 16th. To prompt the discussion, iW asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
“Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron”
Directed By: Kelvin Kyung Kun Park
Producers: Kim Kyungmi, Lee Hwayoung
Cinematographer: Kelvin Kyung Kun Park
Editor: Kelvin Kyung Kun Park
Music: Paulo Vivacqua
Responses courtesy of “Cheonggyecheon Medley: A Dream of Iron” director Kelvin Kyung Kun Park.
Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?
The film is about a dream of metal and how it changed us.
OK: Now tell us what it’s really about…
Here’s the synopsis…The narrator writes a letter to the ghost of his grandfather wondering if his recurring childhood nightmare of rusted metallic images is related to the family history. After running a scrap metal factory in Tokyo during World War II, his grandfather ended up in Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon district where small-scale run-down metal workshops still exist amidst the gentrifying city. Drawing clues from fragments of dreams and myths relating to metal, the ﬁlm reveals the secret alchemy of third world modernity in Cheonggyecheon where this nearly-obsolete hand labor still survives. The ﬁlm attempts to reveal how we shape the metal through techniques such as sand casting and milling machines, only to ﬁnd out that metals have already processed us into beings of industrialization instead.
Working with different mediums…
I was born in Seoul, Korea, son of a Korean diplomat, and studied in the U.S. (in Los Angeles). I was a graphic designer but got tired of it and went into film. Movies are great because you can make a movie about anything. But also you can get caught up in the “about,” the content, making them disposable. Recently I became aware that I just wanted to create something and not be bounded by a particular medium, so I make installations, posters, drawings and etc. along with movies. I consider my work as a prayer to deal with and involve myself into this strange world that I live in. I tried other ways, like getting a job, but it didn’t work because I am too impatient.
Using editing to find the story…
My biggest challenge was editing what I have shot. I had about 150 hours of footage with no strong drama. It was just people making stuff, and eating, joking, and day to day life. In the editing process, I figured out that I could not rely on characters for narrative structure. And what I really wanted to express, my impressions about this place could not be done through conventional realist method. But until I was editing, I had no idea what I was shooting. That is why It took me over a year to edit.
How do you think it will play at the festival?
I think they will enjoy it. I went to school in Los Angeles, so I think I share some similar California sensibilities.
I like Andrei Tarkovsy’s work, “Soliaris,” “Nostaligia,” “The mirror,” “Andrei Rublev” and “Ivan’s Childhood.” I watched all those films around that time I was making. Also I like early Jia Zhang Ke, especially “Unknown Pleasures.” I liked it because this is a fellow Asian filmmaker describing modernity in Asia.
I am making a short film about my experience in the army. I thought of the military as the total theater. Everything from guard duty, training and even terminology, like “war scenario” or “stance,” is very theatrical.
Check out these prior participants in the Los Angles Film Festival, courtesy of SnagFilms [Disclaimer: SnagFilms is indiewire’s parent company]
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