An Interview with Kim Mi-re (Director)
Mother, Wife, Worker—Women’s Conflicts
Q: As a woman yourself, how did the strike make you feel?
KM: What stays in my mind is the vitality of such a large group of people. I felt that I had to impart the message of their cries and physical energy. Through the E-Land conflict, I believe these women were freed from both labor and their households. There’s a palpable sense of burden I sensed in the various roles they play in their domestic lives as mothers, wives and homemakers. The prospect of spending the night away from home was even enjoyable for them. With the responsibilities they bear at home and work, they were happier than we can imagine. Even progressive labor movement supporters in Korea hadn’t considered the fundamental issues facing these women. I wanted to touch on that point in the film as well. Together with these women, and for men too, I wanted to think about maintaining this balance between work and home life and how difficult it was for them to go on strike.
Q: I found the image of the women singing together very appealing and memorable. Are there any particular moments that stay with you?
KM: I heard about the sudden occupation [of the supermarket] and rushed to the scene to shoot it, so there are some parts that aren’t as good as they could’ve been technically. Nonetheless, the women that I caught on camera were very beautiful to me. They weren’t wearing attractive clothing or any makeup, and weren’t able to wash their faces due to staying overnight. Although it just captures them coming and going in light blue t-shirts, their faces and expressions are luminous and beautiful. I also liked the image of the women singing protest songs upon waking up in the morning. The song subject matter is quite serious, usually inspiring stiff movements, but these women were dancing fluidly as if they were in a nightclub. As women whose existence is constantly defined by motherhood, they were no longer mothers or wives but simply “me,” which was embodied physically. There were many instances where they were freed from their usual confines.
Q: What was the reaction like at the Pusan International Film Festival?
KM: A lot of people cried. The E-Land conflict was widely known about in Korea so seeing the reality of it seemed to bring about both anguish and reflection for many. The conflict made business people realize that it was wrong to look down on female laborers and part-timers. However, there were those who felt that if the ultimate failure of the strike led to an acceptance of the status quo, the position of women could unfortunately continue to be weakened. People who joined the conflict also attended. All they ever hoped for was a better society, so it was painful for them to watch. In the end, nothing really changed and the strikers went home. These female workers put their hearts and souls into this fight but if that passion cools off, I don’t know if there will be an opportunity for them to raise their voices again. Society is rapidly become more conservative, which will only make it more difficult for women to speak out. This reality brought about feelings of hopelessness and compassion in people.
(Compiled by Morito Satoko)
Interviewers: Morito Satoko, Hozumi Maki / Interpreter: Nemoto Rie / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Minai Kyoko / Video: Suzuki Hiroki / 2009-10-12