Director Yang Yong-hi, who was born and grew up in Osaka and obtained South Korean citizenship in 2002, has been making documentaries based on her family history of ethnic Koreans living in Japan.
“Our Homeland,” which is Yang’s feature debut, premiered in Korea at last year’s Busan International Film Festival and received positive reviews from the local press.
|A scene from “Our Homeland” (BIFF)|
The film is based on Yang’s real-life reunion with her brother when she was 16. Yang’s father, who moved to Japan from South Korea’s Jeju Island in the 1960s, became a pro-North Korean figure after receiving financial assistance from the communist state.
He sent his three sons ― who were in their teens at the time ― to Pyongyang in the 1970s, in support of a Japanese-Korean repatriation program jointly organized by Japan and North Korea. Yang’s three brothers are among the estimated 90,000 ethnic Koreans from Japan who were sent to North Korea from the late 1950s to the ’70s.
The film tells the story of Sung-ho, a stand-in for Yang’s real-life brother, who returns briefly to visit his family and receive medical treatment for a brain tumor after 25 years of living in North Korea. Korean filmmaker and actor Yang Ik-june, who is well known for his 2009 autobiographical film “Breathless,” stars as a North Korean agent who accompanies and observes Sung-ho during his visit to Japan.
The film received numerous awards in a number of film festivals, including last year’s Berlinale, Paris Cinema Festival, and Asiatica Film Mediale. It was also selected as the Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film for the 85th Academy Awards, though it did not get the final nomination.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)