October 29, 2020

SCREEN | Seoul Searching – Finding 'Gyopo' x VAFF 2020

"Like how do I make you feel?"
Samuel Kiehoon Lee | Gyopo | VAFF 2020
Vancouver Asian Film Festival
Toronto video artist Samuel Kiehoon Lee has created a very creative and energetic portrait of young Korean foreign nationals (known as the gyopo diaspora), mostly artists, now living and loving in Seoul. Captured over a single day and night, the loose anthology of small character stories weaves in and out of the lives of various South Korean expatriates with a familiar artistry to its contemporary tales of lost identity.

Filled with fleeting romance, sex, drinking, and interweaving relationships, Gyopo threads its ideas casually through reoccurring motifs, character traits, and its use of language. Lee's visual flair for conveying subtle emotions in his everyday scenes of hanging out and wandering the city make its overall coherence fairly impressive.

Those unfamiliar with a divided Korea's historical baggage might not see the subtle emotional ticks of its characters. However, Lee clearly understands the wandering, lost nature of young Koreans born and raised outside of the peninsula and a fractured impression of their split homeland. Its stories also work as low-key moments of Asian bonding through shared experiences as well as sly interpretations of Seoul's wider cultural influence.

Lee's impressively small-scale yet soulful film about displaced Korean identity seems nothing more than a day in the/slice of life look at young people on the surface yet its clear undertones speak volumes about deeper repressed themes. Gyopo certainly feels like the beginnings of more stories about lost Koreans and the long-term fracturing of being Korean in a modern context due to the country's history, geography, division, growth, and wealth.

Gyopo screens virtually at the 2020 Vancouver Asian Film Festival online from November 1st to 9th.

More | ATK Magazine / In the Seats

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