I just finished watching Old Partner. It was one of the most amazing documentaries I’ve ever seen. I really liked how it just watched. No judgements. Just watched and recorded. I didn’t have the benefit of English subtitles, and I know they would have enhanced the film, but they also totally weren’t necessary. It was released on DVD just recently, so if it comes to your video rental store do not hesitate to check it out.
And here’s an excellent write-up with director interview from the LA Times, written during it’s 2009 independent film run.
I’d also like all my friends and family to watch it, because the images are exactly what it’s like here in the country. Granted, I don’t see any 80 year old men riding behind 40 year old beasts of burden, but the scenery, THE SOUNDS, and the shacks, etc. are really what it’s like here. The movie was filmed in central Korea, so the spaces are a little more wide-open looking, as in the background here you’ll see furrowed mountain ridges in every direction, but everything else is what rural Korea is like.
Here are some more observations of country life:
The older people are definitely part of the landscape. Literally. They spend the greater part of their days outdoors, rain or shine it seems. Theirs is a rich social life, and they’ll always be hanging out with each other talking endlessly and watching everything happening on the street. Little conversation circles are at every street, fanning themselves, chatting. Where there is no sitting platform, or beat up chairs to pull outside, they will squat and chat. There’s something very genteel about it all.
The kids seem to motate (word we used as a kid) in groups of 4-6. From the looks of it, they take their good old time going home after school and hang out together. The kids here in the country actually can be real teenagers, unlike the ones in metro Seoul. The other day four girls passed by and offered me some wilted, crushed wildflowers. In answer to my confused look, they showed me their nails, which had been dyed a mercurachrome (for those of you youngun’s, that was this orange-red tincture you’d place a few drops onto wounds and it had antiseptic properties. I just looked it up and it was discontinued because it actually had mercury in it!) There were two varieties, the mercurachrome stung really bad and the other was less effective but didn’t sting. They both left an orange stain, similar to that stuff they paint on you prior to making incisions during surgery. It stung enough to not want to report an owie to your mom…) color from the crushed up stamen and pollen. I don’t know if this is a traditional Korean nail polishing method, or just something bored country kids do for fun! They also find hidden passageways between walled courtyards to go smoke, and the boys especially spend as much time as they can in the PC bangs playing video games.
Butterflies abound out here. I’ve never seen so many and such a great variety. Butterfly nets are actually a viable children’s toy and are available at all the hardware stores.
They say that frogs are an indicator species about the health of wetlands. I hear frogs all the time, and crickets, and cicadas, and who knows how many kind of birds’ songs. Open the window with the fan running, and the sound of the nearby pine forest still manages to overcome the sound of the fan. Nature is soooo noisy! It’s really nice.
Voices carry. The wind whips through these valleys, carrying the sound of its inhabitants. Usually, it’s the sound of the neighbors in the Tulli-shaped building, who are practically living with me. Other times, like during some event (the world cup championships was ridiculous) the many cheers of people are like this weird spooky howl whistling past, reverberating in spite of all the foliage.
Despite the abundance of rice fields and farm irrigation and lots of rain, there is surprisingly little mosquito problem here. There was much more in Anyang, with rain water collecting on flat roofs.
All through July the banks of the river were covered with tents. Locals who want to camp but don’t live next to a stream seem to camp there, since the river is the community’s swimming pool. The banks have been covered with concrete, so I can’t imagine it’s a comfortable sleep, but given how some Koreans still sleep on the floor without even a mattress or padding under them, then maybe it’s not so bad to them. I failed to photograph this, but it was quite an interesting sight.
It’s rained so much the past two weeks that the water is above the banks and up to the tree trunks and stair access. The stepping stone bridges are totally covered. Nearby in gangwon province on the Han is rafting. I bet it’s an awesome time to go rafting…
Corn season has pretty much passed, and now all the pepper plants are ripe and ready for picking. It’s unseasonably rainy, so I don’t know where or how they’re going to dry all the peppers. The rice has fully gone to seed and I bet as soon as it stops raining, they will cut the irrigation and let the stalks dry. I don’t know when harvest time happens, but I hope to see it. I’m sure there will be tables of makkolli and work parties then.
In my movie queue:
It’s about two girls whose mom takes off, leaving them with an aunt who manipulates them. It’s about the hopes of kids. I’m watching it to get yet another impression of Korean society’s portrayal of single moms. Will let you know if/when I get the time to watch it.