AFI Film Festival Highlights


REVIEW by Harriet Robbins

LOS ANGELES -- In the Asian Classics Division of the recent AFI FEST, the Korean film The Coast Guard, directed by Kim Ki-duk, was a remarkable achievement. It brought to the audience an inside view of the tensions and pressures endured by the soldiers on guard between South and North Korea. Corporal Kang is so filled with patriotic fervor and rage that he kills a local young man who has crept into the forbidden zone to make love to his girlfriend. This tragic event wreaks havoc on all concerned as not only the girl goes insane but the corporal as well.

The consequences of the division between the two Koreas are well dramatized in this tense, socio-politcal allegory. There are no winners, only losers in present-day Korea.

Double Agent, directed by Kim Hyun-jung (from a screenplay by Shim Hye-won) offers another view of the two Koreas. Set in 1980, the story focuses on Lim, a North Korean agent who is sent south to do his dirty work. Ultimately he defects, only to be brutally tortured by his interrogators, who believe him to be a mole. They are correct in their assumption, but Lim has deceived them for years, long enough to set in motion a dangerous plan to undermine North/South relations.

These two films not only dramatize the complex political situation in Korea but reflect what's happening in Iraq, with our soldiers facing the same life-and-death struggles.

We can only hope that reason and rationality will prevail and that Middle East hostilities will be resolved in a peaceful way. The sacrifices being made by those who are serving their country should motivate us to try and lift ourselves out of the swamp of death and destruction in which we are all mired.

It's good to see that Korean filmmakers have taken a stand and are not afraid to deal with controversial social and political issues. Through their work perhaps we will be able to find a way out of our present crisis.