Our Homeland

From the late 50s and into the 70s, more than 90,000 of the Koreans resident in Japan emigrated to North Korea, a country that promised them affluence, justice and an end to discrimination. KAZOKU NO KUNI tells the story of one of their number, who returns for just a short period. For the first time in 25 years, Sonho is reunited with his family in Tokyo after being allowed to undergo an operation there.
It’s difficult to remain unaffected by the story’s emotional components. But the director doesn’t place her emphasis on melodrama, being simply interested in two people handed radically different life perspectives by the course of history. While Sonho’s path is sketched out for him, Rie recognises that a whole world of opportunities is open to her. Including the chance to rebel against her own family. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival]

Penance

Fifteen years ago, tragedy struck a small town when a young elementary school girl Emili (Hazuki Kimura) was abducted and killed by a stranger. Four girls who had been playing with Emili at the time were the first to discover her body. The abductor is never found and the crime goes unsolved. Crazed with grief, Emili’s mother Asako (Kyoko Koizumi) condemns the four girls, none of whom can remember the abductor’s face. She tells them, “Do whatever you have to find the killer. Otherwise, you can pay a penance that I approve.” Deeply affected by Asako’s condemnation, the four girls become adults burdened with the curse of “penance,” which eventually triggers a chain of tragic events. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]