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Friday, October 22nd, 2021

A Distant Place : a finely nuanced Korean queer family drama

 

A Distant Place, the debut feature film from Korean filmmaker Kuo-Young Park, and  is a remarkable finely nuanced tale that evolved into such an exquisite film as beautiful as the stunning rural setting.  It is the first Korean queer film that I have ever seen and I have to confess although I was unsure what to expect ….. this was certainly not it

Homosexuality in South Korea is not specifically mentioned in either the South Korean Constitution or in the Civil Penal Code, but it is legal to be gay. However gay and lesbian Koreans still face so many difficulties at home and work, so many prefer not to reveal their sexual orientation to even their closest friends/family for fear of being made social outcasts.

A Distant Place is the story of Jin-Woo (Kang Gil-woo) who lives and works as a farmhand in a remote sheep ranch in the highlands of South Korea very near the border with North Korea.

Park who also wrote the script feeds us details sparingly, so it takes us time to work out the setup at Mr, Kim’s ranch. The farmer has a daughter and an aged mother whereas Jin-Woo is fathering Seol a very young child who turns out to be the daughter of his twin sister who had upped and abandoned her just after her birth.

It isn’t the main reason that he left the hustle and bustle of Seoul to bury himself in manual farmwork.  That becomes apparent by the arrival of Hyun-min (Khung Hong), an old ‘friend’ from his university days  We quickly discover that they have a passionate interest in each other and they quickly pick up where they left off.

Hyun-min lands a job teaching older community members at the local Catholic church in the nearby village. The two men are very circumspect in their public behavior and no questions are asked about the nature of their relationship.  Hyun-min seems to want a relationship exclusively with Jin-Woo and, on a short camping trip to Soyangho Lake, he talks about “a distant place” where they could go and live together.

But they are not destined to catch a break as  Jin-Woo’s estranged sister Eun-yeong (Sang-hee Lee) shows up unexpectedly at the sheep ranch wanting custody of Seol.  Except the child is blissfully happy with Jin -Woo sho she calls ‘mummy’ and also with Mr. Kim’s elderly mother coping with her dementia who is Seol’s best friend.

Eun-yeong’s arrival upsets the whole equilibrium of the family’s comfortable set-up.  Even though Mr Kim has realized the true nature of the young men’s relationships without a word he accepts it as he is genuinely fond of both of them and Seol.

We are still totally unaware of why Eun-yeong had stayed away so long but her anger and frustration with the situation come to a boil at the funeral serves for Mrs. KIm’s mother.    She hits back at the only way she can by publically outing the two men in a screaming match in front of all the villages who had come to pay their respects to the dead women.

Those of us who havent grabbed kleenex yet now reach for a large box now fearing  the worse as history always tells us that when it comes to parenthood, even the worse mother in the world is considered a better option than a perfect father that queer Jun.

Park’s film touches on many raw nerves about the make-up of a nuclear family, and kudos for his subtlety and restraint in ensuring that this didn’t denigrate into any form of melodrama.  It’s a through-provoking story that will keep re-appearing in so many shapes and forms until we get full equality in the real sense of the word

Queerguru reviewed "A Distant Place" at 
NEWFEST Film Fest , it is now available streaming on Amazon Prime 

 


Posted by queerguru  at  18:14

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Genres:  coming out, drama, international

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