May 14, 2018

Tiger Spirit: The Korean Peninsular at the Crossroads

The sad truth is that every documentary that touches on Japan's occupation of Korea makes me aware of yet another atrocity committed by the Japanese. This time, in Lee Min Sook's Tiger Spirit, I learned that the Japanese government made it their mission to kill all the tigers in Korea because it was the animal that Koreans identified with their fighting spirit. Anyone read that post I wrote last year about The Tiger? Well, apparently, the movie's not just some man-versus-nature metaphor. It's based on the reality of deranged oppressors murdering an entire animal species as a way to subjugate a people. Not that we're guiltless in America, where white cops shoot black civilians without repercussions and the Native Americans are screwed without the least remorse. You know, when I was a kid I used to have a dream in which the animals were waiting for us to get with the program for some planetary peace program and an owl told me how upset he was that humans were not partaking of the larger inter-species conversation and instead were just killing. Still true, even if I'm not eight years old.

As to the rest of the Lee's movie, though, the whimsical yet intrepid director becomes engrossed with her birthplace's Berlin Wall — the Korean Demilitarized Zone — especially in regards to to how this great divide relates to identity and family. A South-Korean born filmmaker raised in Canada, Lee finds in the fractured country a shared sense of dislocation. Her documentation of the staged reunions orchestrated by the North and South quietly sheds light on an irreparable rift that some hour-long meetings in a tourist trap can't possibly bridge. Her recounting of North Korean escapees' newfound woes is equally elucidating. These relocated relatives from up North are subjected to insidious demands by their new homeland, like a lifelong parole officer, lavish weddings that demand you perform your rites for the public online, and jobs at museums that badmouth your birthplace. As homecomings go, it's not ideal. Watching Lee trudge through forests while three months pregnant or lugging her three-month-old newborn around during a return trip for additional footage, you realize home is everywhere and nowhere. We're all orphans in a way. Heaven help us!

1 comment:

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn't appear.

    Grrrr... well I'm not writing all that over again. Anyhow,
    just wanted to say excellent blog!