Sujan Paik su.paik at
Fri Mar 24 04:07:26 EST 2000

[this is really really late response to the one posted on January 31/00.(I
left it in draft folder...)
Although Shiri is not Japanese film, I am assuming that it will be presented
in many festivals that
I wanted share my views.]

I am no film expert nor academic scholar on Asian films, but I do like to
share my thoughts on the film "Shiri."

>By the way, while there has been a lot of hype about Shuri, all positive
>(according to the stuff I've heard), but has there been any backlash
>its anti-North Korean sentiment?

If I was a film critic I would comment that Shiri is rather a film that has
come a long way to reveal the emotional scar between the people of North and
South.  This unfortunate division is particularly depicted by the two main
characters in
the film.  If Korean War was simply civil war between North and South_which
many western scholars study and teach as Soviet/red China vs. U.S. (cold war
perspective)_I think the film was rather focused on an attempt to show the
people's feeling underneath the story of this ongoing war between North and
South. ( Think about why they are still divided...Hmmmm)  Maybe I am so used
to seeing this North and South images, I rather saw this film in the
perspective of the character's emotional developments and conflicts.

  Its (unexplainably) English introduction states
>clearly that the North started the War, and it goes further to portray the
>North Korean characters solely as programmed amoral killers.  The South
>Koreans on the other hand are seen in a positively beatific light, in their
>quest for peace and to protect their citizens.

Maybe if one is viewing this film in the direction of who is going to win,
is it North or South? or who is more moral and who more humanistic etc. I
really don't think that film was trying to show who is better off, it
rather had deeper approach which was not able to do for long time due to
political reasons.  How would you direct a film as South Korean?  you grow
up with this unfortunate political division and history of geo-political
wars and occupations.  You know better that North Korea is place of Koreans
who are also you're  relatives, there are many Koreans in South who are
originally from North, and all they wish for is to see the unification
before they die.
Is this director truly trying to put down the people of North?
so that South people look so triumph and glorious?
In my humble opinion, the film reveals more of the rapid developmental
problems South is facing today and the developmental difference which will
be much worse than Germany.  Their division is getting further and further
as time goes on, but people don't change.  Their heart loves each other.
Just like the lovers in the film.

It reminded me of the slew
>of American Rambo-esque 'nasty Russkie' flicks that swamped the '80's.  I
>for one found the approach quite offensive.  Technically and performance
>wise I thought Shuri was excellent, with production values of a Hollywood
>standard, but the screenplay also seemed to have its roots in the worst,
>most politically biased American action movies.  Has any opinion along
>lines been expressed in reviews or other media?

I don't see that it was like American Rambo.  (I personally find this
comparison bit ethnocentric. )  If I had access to write about Shiri, I
would not focus on the quality of action and political bias.  Any film made
South will inevitably have some political bias of North because South Korea
have just moved into the 'Democratic' system, but government is still
involved heavily on every aspects, and especially media.
Although Japan have been "democratic", I believe that their system does not
exactly resemble that of
United States.  Due to cold war and domestic political reasons, South Korean
have always put a lot of restrain on the people's voices.
It is unfortunate, indeed, but if you are well aware of political factors,
I think you can focus rather on the film's core values.  There are so many
North descendants in
South Korea, and all they think about is unification.
In the international arena, this film may look heavily biased,
but its core story is not about who is better, it is about the division
Koreans have to live with everyday.
Well, this is how I watched it without English subtitles.

I am just wondering... does any Korean or Japanese films must be compared
with production values of a Hollywood standard in order to understand its
values?  When I studied Japanese films, my professor only used Japanese
cultural, political and historical background to understand the value of
Kurosawa, Oshima Nagisha, etc.  The images, story lines, metaphors,
parodies....these were never compared to that of Hollywood.  I am just a
student, what do I know, however, I don't think it is best to compare and
analyze so much that you only see the value of film in the rankings of best
this and
best that or in the merits of the awards it gets or whether it has met the
Hollywood standard(?)......
Although "Shiri" is not best film that South Korea have produced, but it is
indeed making a lot of hype.
I am not a fan of Shiri, but since the inquiry was about political aspects
and on the comparison to "Rambo".
I just wanted share that one should consider its possible restrains and
historical considerations. ( i am not an expert so...this is just a personal
view..hoping that people without knowledge of Korean culture or history can
view the film without "American Rambo" comparison....^^)

Sujan Paik

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