A Flying Circus of Sorts: Experiences of CAAMFest and Comrade Kim
by Jessica Barker
2013 Student Delegate
The hustle and bustle of CAAMFest was an equally foreign but thrilling experience that each person should experience once in his lifetime. From watching over ten films and short showcases in historical theaters across San Francisco to having coffee with filmmakers in Japantown, the festival offered me a week of insights and experiences into not only the film festival world but also the inherent magic of movies and its ability to bring viewers from all walks of life together.
One of my most memorable moments from the festival is attending the screening of Comrade Kim Goes Flying, a British-Belgian-North Korean joint production. On the last day of the festival, on a sunny afternoon, I waited in line outside the historic Great Star Theatre in Chinatown (a haven for kung-fu enthusiasts and other Asian-themed film buffs). The first thing I noticed was that the diverse gathering of people around me was as unique as the film itself. I struck up a conversation with a middle-aged, female Caucasian Sunset district- native and a male South Korean undergrad exchange student who were standing next to me. We talked about those films from the festival we enjoyed, those that we thought fell short, and those in between. Because we each had differing opinions of the various films we have seen, we were able to share and compare our insights into the cultural, emotional, and existential messages and significance that these movies gave us.
I entered the theater and took a seat near the front, not sure what to expect from this rare collaboration of filmmakers. The host who gave the introduction summed up the film perfectly: it’s “conceived as a fairytale”, but a transnational and transcultural fairytale at that. From the classic Hollywood underdog-story structure, to the two-dimensional animation, and the theme of female empowerment, Comrade Kim utilizes and highlights a range of those timeless aspects of the silver screen that keep audiences returning to the theater no matter what country one identifies with. Undeniably, controversial aspects of North Korean culture and Communistic messages were easily recognizable. Specifically, the importance of collectiveness, the value of a strong spirited working class, the separation of private and public life were heavily present, almost ad nauseam coming from a Western perspective. Despite these historically and culturally-sensitive contentious messages, Comrade Kim Goes Flying supplied equally, if not more characteristics of the magic, fantasy, escapism, as well as hope that one searches for when watching a film which transcends all cultural and national boundaries.
The film opens with the line “Wherever we are, we all have dreams”. I feel that both this quote and the film itself serve as a microcosm for not only the film festival at large but also the magic of movies in general. I have more fully realized and appreciated the value that culturally-specific films have to offer audiences in terms of new perspectives and lenses to critically view the world around us, while simultaneously bringing audiences from all backgrounds together. Through the universal and globally humanistic messages of spirit, hope and most importantly, imagination present in Comrade Kim Goes Flying and my experience with CAAMFest, I must confess that I have fallen in love with cinema all over again.
Photo from www.comradekimgoesflying.com/
Chosen from a large competitive pool of undergraduate and graduate students, the Student Delegates are a small yet diverse group of students who rigorously train at CAAMFest “boot camp.” Under guidance from festival staff, student delegates participate in an intense schedule of music events, cooking events, film screenings, discussions, and exclusive meetings with filmmakers and special guests. The program aims to cultivate the next generation of filmmakers, activists, educators, and community leaders. Check back for blogs from all of the 2013 student delegates!
Southwest Airlines is a proud sponsor of CAAM’s Student Delegate Program. Selected CAAM Internship Program applicants may qualify for complimentary air travel, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.