Kim Kyungmook is one of Korea’s most multifaceted moving image artists – his rich and diverse output includes feature-length narrative films, documentaries, experimental films of various lengths and moving image installations.
In his work, Kim explores the precarious living conditions of marginalized groups of people, from homosexuals, transsexuals, sex workers and North Korean defectors to the disenfranchised youth, giving a voice to those who are not often heard and revealing the ambiguity that lies between appearance and disappearance, visibility and invisibility, presence and absence in South Korean society. One of Korea’s leading LGBT filmmakers, Kim Kyungmook is an autodidact who dropped out of school at sixteen and made his first film aged nineteen.
This programme brings together his most recent work, the documentary Grace Period (co-directed with Caroline Key) with his breakthrough debut Me and Doll Playing, a highly autobiographical short film that plays with the conventions of confessional video, experimental queer cinema and coming of age documentary drama. As Kim explains: “I liked to play with a doll when I was young. I put on make-up at my Mom’s dressing table. (…) I didn’t know where I should be located, between soccer and playing with my doll, or pants and a skirt, which were all divided by certain rules. I was confused about my sexuality (…) I had gone to the hospital to ask who I was, but I only got an answer that I never understood. Now I ask myself to confront a camera.”
Although in the intervening decade, Kim has moved onto a more conventional form of narrative filmmaking, the documentary Grace Period represents a return to the formal experimentation of his early videos. Like all his work, it’s a bold and politically engaged film that documents the activities of female sex workers in the Yeongdeungpo red-light district in Seoul as they face pressure from the police and the threat of permanent closure following the opening of a shopping complex in the area. A call to resistance and solidarity, Grace Period shows the women as they organize with other sex workers from brothers across Korea , demanding decriminalization and declaring their rights as workers.
Part of London Korean Film Festival’s Artist Video strand – programmed and presented in partnership with LUX.
Me and Doll Playing
Kim Kyungmook, South Korea, 2004, video, 19 min
Kim Kyungmook & Caroline Key, South Korea, 2015, HD, 62 min