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영화: '반두비' #1

"Bandhobi: The Most Interesting Korean

Movie You’ll See This Year!"

(The Grand Narrative, 6.22)

 
Following interesting piece about the movie (it will hit select S.K. theaters today!) was published before y'day in the (bourgeois) newspaper Korea Herald:


Film thrusts migrant workers into limelight

 


Karim (Mahbub Alam), an intellectual in Bangladesh, had a big dream when he flew to Korea as a migrant worker. But his life in the land of promise turned out to be full of pains and betrayals.


Min-seo (Baek Jin-hee), a 17-year-old high school girl, is embarrassingly precocious. She does not believe in a fair society, nor does she give up on her hope altogether. She screams at her mother, steals a lost wallet, engages in an illicit part-time job, but retains her teenage spirit.


Karim and Min-seo do not share their core problems, but both are similarly sidelined in Korean society. Director Shin Dong-il, dubbed the "Korean Woody Allen" at the Berlin International Film Festival, brings the two characters together in a way that is at once entertaining and disheartening.


Shin's subject matters are ambitiously sensitive: immigrant workers, racism, poverty, duplicity of Korean adults, not-so-fair education system that gives advantages to the wealthy. Fortunately, he presents the thorny issues in a lighthearted way, often mixing situation humor with a mockery of the current Lee Myung-bak administration.


A case in point: Min-seo wants to make some money to attend English conversation school during summer break, where she can learn from "native speakers." Her choice is to work in an illegal massage parlor with a falsified ID, and one of her clients, well, is her own teacher. What's hilarious is her tongue-in-cheek comment to her teacher: "You must've been hungry."


Yes, she knows a lot more than you might imagine about the duplicity and falsehood of Korean society, but she's a good girl, so don't worry about her, worry about some other crazy Koreans, including those who employ migrant workers like Karim and then declare bankruptcy in order not to pay a dime to the poor foreign workers.


Karim wants to get his money back, knocking on all the doors he can find in the neighborhood where his former boss is supposed to live, but what he gets is a derisive look.


The only person who treats Karim like a normal human being is Min-seo, who has her own reservations about the people of different colors, as demonstrated in her refusal to sit near Karim in a bus. But her prejudice quickly dissolves and then transforms into something tender. This explains why the movie is titled "Bandohbi," which roughly translates into "female friend" in Bengali.


But make no mistake. Even though this film is billed as the first feature to star a migrant worker, its narrative is not solid enough to pull off a full-fledged critique of social and cultural prejudices surrounding migrant workers.


At a press conference following the press preview, Shin said his latest film is just the beginning of a genre that focuses on migrant workers in Korea, and he hopes more films will delve into the issue.


"It is very regrettable that the rating agency has rated my film as 19 and older, even though the film is concerned about a teenager's perspective about the world," Shin said, adding that the rating agency's decision severely undercuts his intention behind the independent film project.


Mahbub Alam, who appeared briefly in Shin's previous feature "My Friend & His Wife" (2006), said his first role in a feature film was a pure delight.


"There were some personal problems I had to deal with, but it was my pleasure to work for this film because it is the first attempt to focus on immigrant workers in Korea," he said.


Baek Jin-hee, who has left a strong impression with her impeccable depiction of a quirky yet likable girl, said she found it a "meaningful experience" to team up with a foreign actor. "The only difference with other Korean actors is that Mahbub Alam has a different skin color," she said.


http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/06/23/200906230011.asp

 


Related:
'Bandhobi' Interweaves Growing Pains, Cultures (K. Times, 6.18)

Interview with Shin Dong-il (Indieforum, 5.29)



 

 

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