Repatriation + Conversation with Kim Dong Won and Chris Berry

Repatriation004
Film info

Director: Kim Dong-won
148mins, 2004

In the Spring of 1992, filmmaker Kim Dong-won met Cho Chang-son and Kim Seak-hyoung, two long-term North Korean political prisoners, recently released from jail, where they had spent thirty years accused of espionage. Known as the "unconverted", many of those captured refused to renounce their patriotism and communist beliefs, and were thus subjected to dehumanising conditions, and sometimes torture. Upon release, a number were refused the right to return to their country of origin. These individuals were generally looked down upon by society, where they encountered a strong anti-communist sentiment, had no help to integrate and lived in extreme poverty. Some of the only support they did receive came in the form of solidarity networks that helped them transition into society.  Kim Dong-won, who was himself involved in these activist movements, befriended Cho and Kim, as well as a number of other North Korean political prisoners, filming them across more than a decade. The film is a strong and often moving account of the trials these men faced after release, as they try to reconstruct what little is left of their lives. It reveals also the personal conflicts and doubts that arose when political tensions between the north and south eased up towards the end of the 1990s, bringing hope for reunification and the chance to return home. While holding close to his principle of filmmaking as community building, the filmmaker adds a personal and self-reflective tone to the film as he narrates in the first person his own experience with these men, sharing with us his own doubts and prejudices, hopes, and his reflections on both ideology and solidarity. Regarded as one of the most important documentaries ever made in South Korea, Repatriation is a timely film about the consequences of the conflict between these two divided countries.

Birkbeck Cinema, 12 Aug 2018 1:30 pm

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