An Interview with Lee Hyun-jung (Director)
Will My Film Help Them?
Q: What is the social position of the homeless in Korea?
LH: The existence of homeless people has come to the surface of Korean society only recently, and as such the word “homeless” itself is now heard much more frequently than ever before. I think that homeless people in Seoul have a different conception of “home” than homeless people in Japan, because the homeless people in Seoul do not build homes for themselves out of cardboard. You have to remember that the people in the House Living Together were formerly homeless. Since they are no longer homeless, they have a certain sense of pride that they are different from “those other beggars.” However, they are still looked down on by society. People in Seoul generally believe that homeless people are a shame to the society, and that they should not be walking around outside. The homeless in Korea are in a very complicated position.
Q: Why is it necessary for them to live together?
LH: By living as a group, they can develop skills in relationship building and problem solving. More than anyone else, the people living in the house understand just how meaningful living together is for them.
Q: Time to time in the film, they show affection for you, the director. How was your relationship with them?
LH: I tried hard as a director to keep a distance from them. Often in documentaries, the filmmaker and subjects become closer as time progress, leading to some sort of discovery. I was trying to do the opposite, and during the editing process I tried not to use any of the scenes where I am mingling with them. However, I also realized that it was pointless to fixate on this, because the presence of a camera is a fact that cannot be ignored. When I appear to be very close to them in the film, it is because their kindness makes us seem close.
Q: Did your feelings about them change as you were working on this film?
LH: I was looking forward to finding out how they operated as a group. Knowing that family ties are very strong in Korean society, it is significant that they called each other family. However, when I began to film them I started to question myself, especially during the latter half of filming. I wasn’t sure how to deal with my own emotions, and there was a period of time when I had to stop filming. It became painful for me to be an observer as they dealt with their conflicts right in front of my eyes. I felt completely lost, like what I was doing was not going to help anybody, or change anything. I feel that this entire filming process was my attempt to understand, to come to terms with the people in the House Living Together.
Q: How do you think this film will affect the Korean society and the House Living Together?
LH: To tell you the truth, I don’t think this film has done anything beneficial for the House Living Together. Sometimes I even feel like I exploited them for my own purposes. Because of this among other reasons, I haven’t been able to get myself to make a concerted effort to have this film viewed by the masses. I still don’t know what to think of it. I am encouraged by audience members who see this as more than just a film about homeless people, who find a connection between this film and their own lives. They understand that no matter how nicely we present ourselves, we all still carry within us a brutal side.
(Compiled by Sonobe Mamiko)
Interviewers: Sonobe Mamiko, Hiroya Motoko / Interpreter: Ando Daisuke / Translator: Paul Mikaelsen
Photography: Kusunose Kaori, Hiroya Motoko / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2007-10-05