A few years back I was living in South Korea. I was living alone in a city called Cheongju. Every Saturday and without warning a siren would radiate it’s shrill call throughout the small town. A test siren. And a dark reminder of the problems still prevalent with the North. I remember how I jumped the first time I heard it… my initial reaction being: OMG! WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING!! As I sat alone in my small bedsit studio.. I wondered if there was going to be an evacuation and my main worry was whether my boss at the English Campus I was teaching at would remember about me and would come and get me if needs be! But she never came… and when I saw that people were getting on with their daily grind.. my fear of invasion/evacuation/world war three dissipated. It was a situation that they had grown used to. And had simply forgotten to inform me of. Most of my learning about the North and South Korean divide came from the children I taught – who had a lot of empathy for their North Korean neighbours. Them and a young man called Kaka who was a researcher on North Korea at a university in Busan. When I received an invite to the Human Rights Watch Festival – I was drawn to go and view Camp 14 – Total Control Zone.
This film details the true story of a young man called Shin Dong-Huyk who was born into a prison camp called simply ‘Camp 14’ to political prisoners. Here Shin worked throughout his childhood oblivious to the world beyond the barbed wire fence. This film consists of interviews with a former camp guard, a member of the secret police and an interview detailing the memories of Shin Dong-Huyk himself – as a person born into and brought up in a world of destruction, abuse and control. Filmmaker Marc Wiese purposefully leaves in the long, uncomfortable silences of Shin’s testimony of his life within the camp – almost respectfully so. After all – this is a story that details a real life dystopian horror and it cannot be told in haste. This is a place where mind control and abuse is actually very real, very prevalent and happening not in the future.. but right now on Planet Earth. But Shin’s dramatic escape to ‘civilization’ details an unexpected and interesting take on how society in the modern world has trappings of it’s own. An incredibly brave and honest film.
For the film site click HERE
Another film I highly recommend is The Parade created by filmmaker Srdjan Dragojevic. This film is set in Serbia where gay men and lesbian women face extreme discrimination. It follows the problematic attempt of a group of people to hold a Gay Pride Parade in Belgrade. This film is cleverly funny highlighting the importance of the issues involved without trivialising them. An excellent movie!
For more on the Human Rights Watch Film Festival who are doing an excellent job on raising awareness on very important human rights issues please visit HERE..