Film on Korean shaman to open DMZ Docs

By Claire Lee

Fifth edition of the annual peace-themed documentary film festival to be held in Ilsan

  • Published : Sept 24, 2013 - 20:02
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2013 - 20:02

A film about a famed shaman and her life intertwined with the tumultuous modern history will open this year’s DMZ Korean International Documentary Film Festival (DMZ Docs), the organizers announced on Tuesday.

Written and directed by famed media artist and filmmaker Park Chan-kyong, the documentary film “Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits” follows the tortuous life of Kim Guem-hwa, a well-known shaman in Korea.

Born in 1931 in a rural town in Hwanghae Province, now in North Korea, Kim was often threatened with death by both South and North Korean soldiers during the Korean War, accused of deceiving people with her practices.

She is best known for her present-day shamanic service that takes place in the hillside cemetery in Paju, Gyeonggi Province ― where communist soldiers were buried after the war. The site is commonly called the “enemy cemetery” by South Koreans. 
A scene from director Park Chan-kyong’s “Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits,” which has been selected as the opener of this year’s DMZ Docs. (DMZ Docs)

“Shaman Kim had gone through a lot during the war as well as the division of the country,” said director Park during a press conference on Tuesday. “I assume that is one of the reasons why this movie has been selected as the opener of DMZ Docs, which pays special attention to the theme of peace and South and North Korea relations.”

Celebrating its fifth edition, the upcoming DMZ Docs screens a total of 119 films from 38 countries. This year’s festival will be the first edition to be held in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province ― a satellite city located northwest of Seoul.

All of the previous editions of the festival were held in Paju, a border city in Gyeonggi Province, located near the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

One of the festival’s major sponsors is the Gyeonggi provincial government.

“We put a lot of thought into this,” said actor Cho Jae-hyun, who serves as the director of the festival. “And we decided to hold the festival in Ilsan, instead of Paju, as we wanted our screenings to be more accessible to the viewers.”

Some of the notable films include Korean director Kim Hyung-joo’s “The Basement Satellite,” which features tech-obsessed media artist Song Ho-joon and his one-of-a-kind-dream: to create a “homemade” artificial satellite and launch it into the space. The artist in 2011 made a plan to sell a total of 10,000 T-shirts to raise 100 million won ($93,000) for the project. The film is having its world premiere at the upcoming DMZ Docs.

Included in a special section commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice is “The Great North Korean Picture Show,” a 2012 documentary created by Singaporean directors James Leong and Lynn Lee. The film features North Korea’s only film school, where its students go through painstaking rehearsals and workshops to become part of North Korean cinema ― which is often exploited as a vital propaganda tool by the totalitarian state. The film has never before been screened in South Korea.

DMZ Docs runs from Oct. 17 to 23 at Lotte Cinema Lafesta in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province. For more information and this year’s full lineup, visit www.dmzdocs.com.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)