Cast: Song Ji-in, Song Yong-sik
Grand Prize, Korean Competition, 2018 Jeonju International Film Festival
Seonghye barely has energy to sleep. At night she bikes from her graveyard shift at a convenience store to a pre-dawn shift delivering newspapers in multi-story apartment buildings. When daylight leaks in, she chases phantom jobs – attending English language courses, going on tense interviews. Hers is a one-note existence dedicated to cracking the basement floor of white collar opportunity, a world she is exiled from with no reentry in sight, until an alarming turn of events presents Seonghye with a fascinating calculation.
Shot in luminous black and white and informed by Korea’s current invisible crisis of unemployment among the young and college-educated, THE LAND OF SEONGHYE looks at the toll of precarious survival and the web of poverty sticking to every part of Seonghye’s life – from where to have sex, where and what to eat, and the chain reaction of financial struggle wrapped around her ankles by broke friends, increasing rent, and her ailing parents.
Yet, the film avoids sensationalizing poverty, instead delivering the dull texture of endurance that changes as the film progresses – with earnest gestures from a boyfriend, and emotional eruptions which add new nuances to Seonghye’s story – until a revelatory final act changes the coordinates under Seonghye’s feet and proposes: sometimes a modest shift in fate is just radical enough.
– Christina Ree
Co-Presented by: UCSD Transnational Korean Studies