Sewol sinking documentary screened in Busan despite controversy

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Oct 7, 2014 - 20:49
  • Updated : Oct 7, 2014 - 21:57

A controversial documentary that deals with the April 16 sinking of the Sewol ferry, which claimed more than 300 lives, made its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival as planned on Monday despite calls and protests against its screening.

“The Truth Shall Not Sink with the Sewol” (a.k.a. “Diving Bell”), directed by journalist Lee Sang-ho and director Ahn Hae-ryong, tells the stories behind the failed search for survivors that used a diving bell.

“It was when I arrived at Paengmok Harbor (on Jindo Island) that I realized the truth was sinking,” said Lee at the screen talk with the audiences after the film premiere in Busan on Monday. “Most press reports at that time were false due to government cover-ups.”

“We tried our best to secure all the materials within 3-4 days (after the accident occurred), particularly those regarding the diving bell, to prevent truth from being buried,” Lee added.

The controversy over the screening of the film goes back to early September when the festival committee included the documentary in the “Wide Angle” documentary section.
Lee Sang-ho (left) and Ahn Hae-ryong, codirectors of the controversial documentary “The Truth Shall Not Sink with the Sewol,” talk to the press after the film’s premiere at the Busan International Film Festival on Monday. (Yonhap)

Victims’ families asked the committee to withdraw the film from screening, saying that “making a film out of the largely failed effort involving the equipment will only add salt to their wounds.”

On Sept. 24, Seo Byung-soo, the Busan mayor and festival chairman, asked the committee to cancel the screening, citing the film’s political sensitivity.

After a heated debate, the committee stated that it would screen the film as planned. “Not once in 19 editions of the festival held so far has a screening been canceled due to external pressure,” the committee said in a press release on Oct. 5, a day before the film’s premiere. “Asking us to cancel the unscreened film is an act of threat to the festival’s identity and existence.”

“I don’t think the Busan mayor had any ill intention toward the 20-year-old festival,” Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Snowpiercer,” said during the press conference on Friday. “This is his first year (as the chairman of the festival), so I don’t think he was well aware of how an event like this is programmed and run.”

The 77-minute documentary was screened to a full house of press and audience members on Monday. Megabox Haeundae theater in Busan will show the film on Oct. 10.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)