An Interview with Lee-Kil Bora (Director)
People of Different Languages and Cultures Living Together
Q: The scene of hands signing against the backdrop of a grassy field was very beautiful. What was your thinking in filming it?
LB: Actually, I was thinking that I wanted to present this signing scene in a beautiful way. In South Korea, deaf people are not recognized as having a specific culture, but rather seen as “people whom we have to help,” and there’s still no cognizance of “people who posses the language of sign.” But I think that they are a people with a separate language, and a characteristic culture. When we see deaf people as not “people whom we have to help,” but rather as “people with a different language and culture living together,” I think that we can understand each other even better. I decided to film these hands in a beautiful way because I wanted viewers to think: “those hands are so beautiful. I want to try and learn sign, too.”
Actually, sign is not only expressed with your hands—it must also be aligned with your expression. But I thought that inserting footage of a face into this scene with sign would throw viewers off, so I expressed it in this way.
Q: Why did you decide to include the scene of your family singing karaoke?
LB: That scene was just footage of my mother that I shot as an experiment when I was participating in a short film workshop. But when I screened it, it seemed like the viewers were quite shocked. They assumed that a person who cannot speak in words must not be able to sing, so they were surprised at the singing, but they were even more moved by how joyously, and how beautifully she sang. I was really surprised by that, and the reason is that going to karaoke with my family was just an ordinary thing for me. I thought it was perfectly normal. When I realized that others around me didn’t think this way, I decided to include it. In that scene my brother—who can hear the sound—participates in the song through sign, and my mother—who can’t hear the sound—participates by singing with her voice. For our family that’s a natural arrangement.
Q: In the film you say that your “parents’ world was stable and complete.” By this do you mean that they have an established culture?
LB: I expressed it this way because I certainly feel that the world of deaf people constitutes a unique culture. I studied various materials, and I understood that from an anthropological standpoint a unique culture has indeed developed.
Also, we children of deaf parents are called “CODA” (Children of Deaf Adults), and we have all had the experience as translators of connecting two worlds. I thought yeah, that’s the same in every country.
Q: How did your parents react to this film?
LB: My parents were delighted to be on film. Plus, it was their first time to see a film with deaf protagonists, a film which showed the reality of their lives, so they were happy. Deaf people are a minority the world over, so no matter what they are always in the position of needing sign or subtitles to understand. But for my parents this was a film that they could understand without subtitles. It’s the same feeling as if a Japanese person, who had always been shown Indian films whose language they couldn’t understand, was one day able to see a film in Japanese. So in that sense, too, they were happy to see it.
(Compiled by Suzuki Moyu)
Interviewers: Suzuki Moyu, Satsusa Takahiro / Interpreter: Nemoto Rie / Translator: Tyler Walker
Photography: Tanaka Minemasa / Video: Fukushima Nana / 2015-10-12