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‘In the Absence’ raises international awareness of Sewol ferry disaster

Korea’s first documentary Oscar nominee misses out on award

Gary Byung-seok Kam (left), producer of the short documentary “In the Absence,” arrives with director Yi Seung-jun (right) and mothers of Sewol ferry victims Kim Mi-na and Oh Hyun-ju for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, Sunday (AFP-Yonhap)
Gary Byung-seok Kam (left), producer of the short documentary “In the Absence,” arrives with director Yi Seung-jun (right) and mothers of Sewol ferry victims Kim Mi-na and Oh Hyun-ju for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California, Sunday (AFP-Yonhap)

Director Yi Seung-jun’s “In the Absence” missed out on the award Oscar for best short-subject documentary Monday, but leaves the Academy Awards having broken new ground as the first-ever Korean documentary to be nominated.

“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” a documentary on Afghanistan girls learning to skateboard and gain confidence in life, took home the prize.

“In the Absence” deals with the Sewol ferry sinking in April 2014, which took the lives of 304 people. Yi focuses on the accident by using video and sound recordings from the day of the accident, questioning the absence of the government during the crisis.

The 29-minute documentary looks into the day of the event through aerial video taken from choppers and cell phone videos from the deceased students, unlike other documentaries, which cover events leading up to the event and those responsible for the tragedy.

The film previously won the 2018 grand jury prize for short competition in DOC NYC, one of the largest documentary film festivals in the US.

Yi hoped that as an Oscar nominee, the movie would bring international attention to the tragic accident, which will be meaningful in itself.

Oh Hyun-ju and Kim Mi-na, who both lost their sons in the accident, joined Yi on the red carpet as representatives, paying for their own travel expenses and bringing with them some nametags of the Danwon High School students who were killed in the sinking.

The five nominees in the short-subject documentary category this year were “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl),” “In the Absence,” “St. Louis Superman,” “Walk Run Cha-Cha” and “Life Overtakes Me.”

By Lim Jang-won (ljw@heraldcorp.com)
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