Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women

The first part of this 1999 movie about Korean women used as sex slaves by the Japanese army during World War II is at once horrifying and elegantly crafted. Writer-director Dai Sil Kim-Gibson intercuts sensitive interviews with several such women and explanations by some Japanese historians, who alternately blame cultural differences in morality or the Allies' failure to intervene. A mixture of archival footage and black-and-white images staged to look archival suggests that not everything we need to know about the past is documented; the staged imagery is used sparingly, as are the lyrical images of nature that beautifully illustrate Kim-Gibson's sense that what happened to the women was “not just the ugly atrocities but loss of lives by the waterfalls, in mountains where the spirits roam.” Later it becomes apparent that the staged imagery also functions to introduce female actors who portray the interviewees in the docudrama section that rounds out the movie—scenes that are so stagy and melodramatic they almost subvert the voice-over recollections that link them. Charles Burnett (To Sleep With Anger) was the editor and coproducer.

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