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We live in a MAD world – we live with the threat of nuclear warfare, where mad stands for Mutually Assured Destruction. Where the theatre of war shifts across the globe and is part of our reality, no matter who we are or where we live. We are all at risk and all, to some extent, implicated. Which is why award winning South African filmmaker, Mark J Kaplan went to Jeju island, off the South Korean mainland. This ecologically unique island is a paradise with a dark side. Where a Cold War genocide just after the Second World War has been followed by a new and different kind of massacre, the construction of a massive naval base that has devastated the environment and placed the islanders in the cross-hairs of a potential future global conflict between the two world Super-powers, The United States of America and China.
Through the memories and actions of a range of political activists, religious leaders and artists the film explores the interconnectedness of past, present and future and the universal relevance of a village resisting an empire.
Jeju Island was the scene of horrendous atrocities by the US-backed South Korea dictatorship 70 years ago. Its people recovered, and it is now internationally recognized as an island of world peace. It is also the site of many UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites. In recent years the US and South Korea have been desecrating the island with a huge naval base, significantly expanding military confrontation with China and causing immense damage to the lives of the islanders and to the environment. The villagers of the most affected region have been conducting a most impressive and courageous non-violent campaign to prevent these dangerous and destructive programs, facing severe repression and state violence, also seeking crucial international support. To learn more about this remarkable story, I urge you to watch this film.
I am deeply moved and impressed by the film, for "Village vs Empire" captured local, national and global perspectives of the struggle of the Gangjeong people as well as in multi-dimensional probe of their movement. In fact, the film put their struggle into the historical experience of April 3rd massacre in Jeju, which represents hundreds of similar massacres in Korean peninsula between 1945~1953. This means that the Gangjeong Film has wider significance in the Korean context.
Acclaimed UK based Producer, Director
It’s a great story and I loved the use performance dance to illustrate the activism and links to the local nightmare. Another one of those Asian tragedies none of us have heard of! A poetic way to illustrate the David and Goliath vision of contemporary industrial society. Congratulations.
Professor Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela
Research Chair, Studies in Historical Trauma and Transformation Stellenbosch University
It is a powerful albeit painful story, one that I knew nothing about. The story of the '48 massacre could itself be a stand-alone feature of a film. Unbelievable what Americans do to small powerless nations. And then they are surprised when a Trump emerges from their midst! I was also very moved by the story of the women and their lives of fishing. It's a very unique vignette that captures compellingly the destruction of cultural life.
Professor at The Centre for Humanities Research, University of The Western Cape
At pre dawn today I found an undistracted time and space to watch the film. So many complex thoughts and feelings it evokes. I am so engaged by the interleaving of documentary and aesthetic impulses in the piece: the attention to colour and sound against the totalitarian greys and the industrial surge everywhere apparent. I recall the strange anomalies of my Korean visit: the intensity of commitment to metaphysics in the midst of pragmatics. It occurred to me that perhaps that is how we always live, with 'intuition' and 'commonsense' as a skein of mystical avowal, always, channelling itself through our obtuse numbness. The brute story itself is grotesque, and as I watched the shamanic acts, I thought too of the bewildering simultaneity of ecstatic Zionist and local ritual forms that locate themselves on despoiled river banks, curbsides and groves of trees. Such an evocation, you conjure, of deep wells of beauty even as you compel us to look at the miseries.
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