YIDFF 2017 New Asian Currents
The Slice Room
An Interview with Song Yun-hyeok (Director)

My Message to Mothers: The Homeless’ Emotional Pain and Hopes

Q: I think you depicted extremely well the image jjok bang residents doing their very best to live. Why did you choose film as a medium to convey their situation?

SY: I never thought that I would make a film. Since I was a university student, I have worked for an organization that supports the homeless and have been involved with outreach. There is a night school program for the homeless, and within that is a media class. We have them express themselves, working on shooting and editing footage. When I was helping in that class, I met Park Jong-pil. He suggested filmmaking to me, and that was how I began. I had always wanted to convey the situation of the homeless to the public, so in this way I feel this film is an extension of outreach activities. 

Actually, Park headed production of this film. However, he unfortunately passed away fairly recently. His films have been screened at the YIDFF in the past, and when he found out that my film was going to be screened at this year’s festival, he was extremely happy for me. 

Q: Was it difficult to gain the trust of the homeless? 

SY: I think this issue deals with how one thinks of the person they are dealing with. I personally had a preconceived notion that homeless people are lazy, so that’s why they live the way they do. I can’t deny that when I first met homeless people, I thought that even conversing with them would be difficult. However, as I began to know about their lives, this preconceived notion disappeared. 

Q: What issues do you believe are behind homelessness?

SY: Under normal circumstances, the homeless should be living with us within society. Despite this, I think it is a problem that the public maintains a perception of homeless people being an existence which should go unnoticed. There is also the underlying issue of welfare policies. There should be monetary and institutional support so they are able to build the foundation for their lives on their own. Yet as it is, the idea that it’s useless to invest in the homeless is common, so no budget plans are made and they are unable to receive support. 

Q: In the official YIDFF catalog, you wrote, “I began to want to become their mouthpiece.” By “mouthpiece,” I understood this to mean that you want to give the homeless a voice and deliver their message to someone. With this film, who do you want to convey this message to? 

SY: I want to tell this to mothers. I spoke about this with colleagues working on the film with me during shooting, but in South Korea, mothers are old-fashioned and indifferent toward the issue of homelessness. Yet on the other hand, they have a love for people. They carry feelings of both affection and indifference. This is the existence of “mothers.” So I was conscious to make this film in an easy to understand format, like that of a television documentary.

I support the homeless and wanted to correct the societal misconceptions surrounding them. So as much as possible, I depicted them as they are. This is because I feel they would be misunderstood by the public if they only saw elements such as them sleeping on the side of the road, getting drunk and begging. People who are homeless have circumstances and a story that led them down that path, and they are living with this emotional pain. I want people to know that they are not idling their lives away; they have love and are working their hardest to live.

(Compiled by Satsusa Takahiro)

Interviewers: Satsusa Takahiro, Okawa Akihiro / Interpreter: Nemoto Rie / Translator: Kat Simpson
Photography: Kusunose Kaori / Video: Kusunose Kaori / 2017-10-08