THE HILL OF SECRETS
비밀의 언덕Directed by Lee Ji-eun
Cast: Jang Sun, Lim Sun-woo, Moon Seung-a
Official Selection, 2022 Berlin International Film Festival
When a commercial about starving children comes on during dinner, 12-year-old Myung-eun asks her parents if she can donate. “I would never ask anyone for help!” Replies her mother, scornfully. “All day I work—look at my hands!” She says, thrusting them at Myung-eun. “Give nothing, take nothing!”
Frustrated by her working-class parents’ cynicism, Myung-eun decides to run for class president, hoping to find an outlet for her desire to practice kindness and prove that she is different from her family. When she wins, her first act as president is to create a “Secret Letters” box, where students can write in secrets for her and the teacher to brainstorm solutions to. Emboldened by her win, Myung-eun also begins to submit to a series of writing contests. All the while, she keeps her own family a secret, too ashamed and angry with them to let them meet her classmates or teacher.
However, she cannot pretend forever. Suspicions and conflict arise, and her own guilt begins to eat at her. Eventually, she must choose between her ambitions and hurting her family—a choice that forces Myung-eun to learn that the true test of kindness lies not in how we treat those far away, but rather, those close enough to see their every flaw.