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Actresses hold mirror to themselves

Three actresses direct and star in their own documentary film

“Almost always it is the fear of being ourselves that brings us to the mirror,” late Argentinean poet Antonio Porchia once said.

Making a personal video of oneself is, in many ways, constantly having a mirror before your eyes. It’s hard not to be conscious of the self-reflection shown in the viewfinder, as well as its seeming flaws and weaknesses.

Three actresses, active in the local indie movie scene, brought themselves toward a special mirror ― also known as video camcorders ― to document their lives and struggles.

From enduring post break-up days to working on foreign films, the movie “Myselves: The Actress No Make-Up Project” reveals some of the most personal moments of the three individuals.

All of the footage was shot by the actresses themselves. They are sometimes clearly conscious of the camera, sometimes narcissistic, and sometimes insecure. And just like Porchia said, there is the universal fear of being one’s true self. 
Scenes from upcoming documentary “Myselves: The Actress No Make-Up Project.” (Seoul Independent Film Festival)
Scenes from upcoming documentary “Myselves: The Actress No Make-Up Project.” (Seoul Independent Film Festival)

Among the three actresses, Yang Eun-yong shares her break-up with a long-term boyfriend. The actress, who has appeared in more than 50 feature-length and short films since the year 2000, struggles and laments in her self-made footage, and her sense of disillusionment shows throughout.

Yang said she deleted a lot of footage in the beginning as she was too self-conscious about filming herself and was afraid to share her personal struggles with the viewers.

“At the time, the whole break-up drama was literally dominating my life,” Yang said during an interview with The Korea Herald.

“I was so emotionally preoccupied by it, I didn’t know what else to shoot.”

By listening to her casual conversations with her close friends and colleagues, one can also easily guess that her acting career hasn’t been so easy. Her mother was against the idea of her becoming an actress and refused to pay for her art school tuition; she doesn’t think she can ever perform like Juliette Binoche, the French actress she admires. She often looks insecure and emotionally drained, especially when she talks to her ex over the phone.

“I was in the middle of the grieving period when I was shooting the movie,” said Yang. “And I’m out of that now. It’s a meaningful record of my personal history, because the relationship touched my life in so many ways.”

And there is Kim Kkot-bi, whose previous works include Yang Ik-jun’s 2009 sensational indie drama “Breathless.” The film was featured in 2009 Rotterdam International Film Festival and 2009 Singapore International Film Festival. The actress, who attended the film bashes, reportedly met up with a number of foreign directors during the events and became friends with them.

In the movie, Kim records her trips to foreign cities, including London and Hong Kong, and her gatherings with foreign directors and friends. Kim gets into foreign projects using her own connections she built while attending film festivals overseas.

Not many young actresses expand their career the way Kim does, and her independent and almost hyperactive nature is well-captured in the self-made footage. The way she spends her time in her room, from playing her melodeon and reading English-language books out loud, also offers a glimpse into the life of the free-spirited, creative young woman.

Actress Seo Young-joo, who has previously appeared on Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” (2006) and Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance”(2005), offers the most abstract footage among the three. She dances alone and talks to herself in front of the camera, and these cuts overlap with images of ocean waves and rainy Seoul streets. Her impromptu monologues are beautiful, often self-reflective and touching.

“I still have so many things that I’d like to hide,” she says in the film.

“But these are the things that needed to be told the most, unveiled the most, and forgiven the most.”

There isn’t much glitter and glamour of an actress in the movie: there’s no red carpet, no flashlights and no waving at the excited crowd. Instead, the film offers an original portrait of three individuals who have dreams and problems, as well as flaws.

“Myselves: The Actresses’ No Make-Up Project” opens in theaters on Aug. 23.

By Claire Lee (