My favorite parts of filmmaking are—hands down—editing, and then screening a film for an audience. The course by which each shot meets the next, is formed into a narrative, and becomes a story conveyed to the audience, is a new journey for me every time. And those in the audience each see the film in their own way, as a film creates new discussions depending on the time and place that it is screened. The process of watching, hearing, talking, communicating, and thinking through a film is the process of understanding the world from a different perspective, and therefore I meet the world through filmmaking.
My film Glittering Hands (2014), which depicts the glittering world of my deaf parents, from the perspectives of both daughter and director, was awarded Special Mention in the New Asian Currents program in 2015. It was my first feature-length film and the first overseas film festival I was invited to. I watched the film quietly from a corner of the venue. No one laughed at the scenes where I thought everyone would be in stitches. I joined the Q&A later with much anxiety. To my delight, the audience who seemed as friendly as neighborhood grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, older sisters, and older brothers greeted me with big smiles, holding their arms aloft in resounding applause. Instead of simply opening their mouths to laugh, they had been viewing my film with their entire bodies. Over the duration of the film festival, there was a Japanese restaurant where people could go to meet and interact with everyone. Filmmakers, the audience, the film festival staff, and volunteers connected here uninhibitedly to talk about things that they were not able to talk about in the screening venue. What a fascinating film festival it was.
I liked the film festival and the city, which was quiet but lively at the same time. There, my film was interpreted in a different context from where I was born and raised. It was not a film about “disability,” but a story that formed when different cultures and languages collided. It became a story about deaf Japanese people using Japanese sign language; about ethnic Koreans and other ethnic groups in Japan; and at the same time, it became a question posed regarding uniqueness and diversity. Through screenings in a different language and culture, I had the experience of encountering my film all over again via an audience who thoughtfully discovered its possibilities.
Autumn reminds me of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. I would remember days filled with watching films and, while out for leisurely walks, having casual conversations with filmgoers. Then, somehow, I would feel (filmmaking) power naturally springing up inside me. The 2021 film festival will be held online, but I/we are waiting. Waiting for the moment when we can come together again there and see the world differently through the perspectives of the films. That time and space must continue. I also look forward to the discoveries and possibilities that the experiment of holding this year’s festival online will bring.
Lee-Kil Bora is a Korean writer and filmmaker who believes that being born to and raised by deaf parents has given her the best gift of storytelling. She graduated from the MA program, Artistic Research in and through Cinema in the Netherlands Film Academy. Her film Glittering Hands (2014, YIDFF 2015, Special Mention) was theatrically released in Korea and Japan. Untold (2018) received the jury’s special mention for the Mecenat Award at the Busan International Film Festival in 2018, and won the David Plath Media Award by Society for East Asian Anthropology in the U.S. She has published several books including Glittering Hands, Any Life Experience Is Worth the Shot, and Speaking After You. She received the Young Art Support Amsterdam Award in 2020 and the Gender Champion Award by the Netherlands Government in 2021. Our Bodies, which is being developed as a feature film, was selected as a Doc Station project at Berlinale Talents 2020.