Korea: split screen

Catherine Gough-Brady

Rushing to Sunshine

Rushing to Sunshine

In a scene from Solrun Hoass’ latest documentary Rushing to Sunshine a fisherman from South Korea discusses the media coverage of a recent ‘incident’ in which the South Korean navy sank a North Korean fishing trawler. He says: “There are no reporters who report the whole story. They all add a little bit and take out a little bit.” He is media savvy, which it seems the South Koreans need to be, if they are to avoid becoming legal ‘traitors.’

A professor has been less savvy than the fisherman; he is being prosecuted for editing a collection of children’s stories. The book was found to have 41 points in favour of the ‘communist’ North Korean lifestyle and only 14 against. The man who counted these points for and against is also interviewed. He denies that he condones the depiction of North Koreans with horns; only their leader, Kim Il Sung, must be shown with horns. At this point you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is still dawn of the official ‘Sunshine’ policy of re-unification of Korea and it seems the birds have not yet acquired the right to sing.

In a Q&A discussion after the Australian premiere of her film, Hoass revealed that years ago someone had approached her and said her films were like fragments. While it was intended as an insult she rightly took it as a compliment. Rushing to Sunshine is also a fragmented film which, considering the fragmented nature of the country, is fitting. The first half uses a split screen. In the larger section we see recent footage of South Korea and hear what these people have to say. The smaller section features silent footage from Pyongyang in ‘communist’ North Korea. At times this split screen is profound, for instance when Hoass talks with the old men who have spent most of their lives in jail for their outspokenness about the division between the countries. In the left hand screen is a tracking shot along a railroad in North Korea. In the right, the men in South Korea cope with the modern technology of microphones as they tell their journey, their story. One image becomes a metaphor of the other and the tension of the Koreas is set up between the two.

Hoass is the first to admit Rushing to Sunshine is the most “wordy” of her documentaries. I missed the silences. It is almost as if the spaces are the cement holding the fragments of her films together; without them there is less time to dwell on a moment or a piece of information. The moments I enjoyed most were when we ‘watch’ the subjects. One of the old ‘traitors’ sits on the floor sipping his soup when the phone rings. He conducts a quick phone interview with an unknown journalist and matter-of-factly says his friend, not he, has the record for the longest time in jail. He then returns to his spot on the floor and his soup.

Rushing to Sunshine, Solrun Hoass, distributor Ronin Films, premiered at Popcorn Taxi, Cinema Nova, Melbourne, February 20. The film had its world premiere in Seoul, Korea, at Insa Art Space as part of the exhibition Three sunshine perspectives on North and South Korea.

RealTime issue #42 April-May 2001 pg. 17

© Catherine Gough-Brady; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2001