The Filmmakers Behind IN THE ABSENCE on What It Can Teach Americans
The absence in the title of In the Absence, the Oscar-nominated documentary short from director Yi Seung-jun, refers to the absence of the government. The film is about the sinking of a South Korean passenger ferry in 2014, an incident that claimed more than 300 lives, most of them high school students on a field trip. The disaster is now widely blamed on government negligence and helped lead to the impeachment of South Korea’s president.
But a different kind of absence is also the source of the documentary’s strength, as Yi approaches the tragic subject matter with a considered restraint. The effect is a documentary that does not engage with the speed and amnesia of a rapidly moving news cycle but rather encourages a more muted, persistent form of remembrance. As Yi put it, the film “starts from the pain and suffering of the families of the deceased students and the civilian divers who helped with the rescue or salvaging and then works its way back to the source of this suffering.”
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