Do some research on the Gwangju Uprising
Release date: August 2, 2017
Director: Jang Hoon
Who should watch this movie: Young idealists. University students. People who thought this was Taxi Driver starring Robert De Niro
When should you watch this movie: When your country is facing down an authoritarian regime.
The sell: Based on true events, A Taxi Driver takes you through the violent uprising (and massacre) in Gwangju, South Korea through the eyes of journalist Jürgen Hinzpeter and more importantly his taxi driver, Kim Sa-bok. This telling of events is highly fictionalized, choosing an unlikely protagonist through which to introduce a critical – and often overlooked – moment in Korea’s national history. Kim is, however, the perfect audience surrogate for this project. When we are introduced to Mr. Kim, he is a hardworking single father and entirely disinterested in the protests, which he views generously as youthful idealism and cynically as squandered privilege. Chance events lead Kim and Hinzpeter together, and Hinzpeter leads Kim reluctantly into Gwangju. Caught up against his will, Kim bears witness to unprovoked violence against protestors and civilians at the hands of the military – who until this point he held in high regard. The audience thus shares in his shock, horror, and feeling of betrayal. Though the protestors in the movie are fighting for democracy, the movie chooses not to involve the audience in that discourse. Instead, it places the audience in the shoes of an otherwise uninvolved witness and asks, what is your responsibility after having seen these events unfold? In some ways, this is a classic “hero’s journey” and in others, an entirely novel endeavor to explore the the importance of testimony in the face of suppression. This film is undoubtedly worth watching for the historical relevance alone, but it offers so much more.