A scene from “If You Were Me 4,” an omnibus film project by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea
By Lee Hyo-won
For its sixth omnibus feature film ``If You Were Me 4,’’ the National Human Rights Commission of Korea has brought together five directors to capture the magic and complexities of being a teenager. The closing film for the 2008 Jeonju International Film Festival (JIFF) makes a promising theatrical release June 4 despite tough competition with big Hollywood flicks.
Along with JIFF’s popular digital franchise, the human rights project continues to positively contribute to the omnibus genre. In past years, directors such as Park Chan-wook participated (``If You Were Me,’’ 2003), and this time Pang Eun-jin, Jeon Gye-su, Lee Hyun-seung, Yoon Seong-ho and Kim Tae-yong each offer a small gem of a piece.
Pang, who debuted with the bloody thriller ``Princess Aurora,’’ offers something bright in ``Blue Birds on the Desk.’’ The story itself is rather typical of 1990s TV dramas on growing pains, but cheerful melodies, school uniform-clad dance sequences and slightly awkward yet whimsical CG effects add special touches.
The story revolves around two middle school girls who are both named Jin-ju. One is not only pretty but is also the future class valedictorian, while the other is an attention-deficit goofball that consistently ranks the lowest GPA. Despite appearances, however, the former Jin-ju melancholically sings about the pressure of being on top, while the latter raps merrily about her low score (quite like how Travis fetes being a tardy king in ``Clueless’’). The two become improbable friends and decide to turn things upside down for a change.
Jeon Gye-su (``Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theater’’) offers something mellower in ``U and Me’’ and provides insight to how it feels to be underage and have no control of the future. Through long takes and minimal dialogue, the director captures subtle sentiments with great fastidiousness, while talented young actors unleash their emotions through fleeting glances.
So-young has been lifting weights ever since she could remember, but being reputed as macho isn’t particularly easy for a budding young woman. Cheol-su, on the other hand, is a painfully shy boy who is about to leave to study in Australia at the behest of his overzealous mother. The two pause to examine their situation, and what lies ahead in the future they have not planned for themselves.
Lee Hyun-seung (``Il Mare’’), who has been producing the project, brings something that addresses teenage rights more openly and directly in ``Relay.’’ This lighthearted drama portrays girls’ solidarity to support one of their peers, a teenage mother secretly raising her child in school, against the authoritative adults. The teachers, however, provide much of the slapstick as the biology teacher takes a scientific approach to the situation while the ethics teacher disagrees on moral grounds, and veteran Moon Sung-keun, who is famous as the host of a local current events program, tries to analyze the situation objectively as the school principal. Also notable is that the short marks the debut of Park Bo-young, the young heroine of this year’s megahit ``Scandal Makers.’’
Yoon, who made a breakthrough with the indie film ``Milky Way Liberation Front,’’ offers something wickedly creative in ``The Theory and Practice of Teenage Drama.’’ The shaky handheld work and stylistic glitches, along with teenage girls’ beat box rhymes, it looks like a UCC (User Created Content) video on YouTube, but highlights teenage dialogue and emotions with great finesse like ``Juno.’’ In a small provincial town, different groups of high schoolers gossip about the recent death of a girl in a rice field, while the ``spirit’’ of the girl wanders around them.
Kim Tae-yong paints a gripping portrait of the wonder years and refreshing insight to being in a multicultural family through ``Girl on the Run.’’ Many Koreans will be reminded of the classic cartoon ``Run Hani’’ in this story about Cha-eun, the fastest girl in school. But when her track team breaks up, she is the only one left behind while her peers join their coach in Seoul. It seems out of the question for her to ask permission from her strict father, while her Filipino stepmother watchers on ruefully. Life gets more complicated when her classmates find out about her unique family orientation.
To learn more about the project, visit www.humanrights.go.kr (Korean and English).