Inspired by real-life stories from border villages around Demilitarised Zones in Korea, Heeseon Kim’s striking RCA grad film The River serves up an unsettling tale of manipulation and violence in a stark and unforgiving land. Presented in a bold, almost confrontational style, what this nine-minute animation lacks in narrative clarity, it more than makes up for with its powerful filmmaking approach and ambitious, original storytelling.
Originally pictured as an animated documentary, featuring the voices of interviewees, Kim decided a dialogue-free approach would be better, as she felt it would add a more universal feel to her story. Admitting she “wanted to erase the distance between characters and audiences” with her film, she hopes The River reminds viewers that stories like these shouldn’t feel like from a forgotten time, as similar tragedies are still occurring all over the world.
With a more abstract approach to storytelling, The River’s narrative is bound to be a little hit-and-miss with some of our audience, but even if you don’t feel the gut-punch impact of Kim’s plot, it’s hard not to admire the prominent aesthetic she uses to deliver her tale. Created using Adobe Photoshop and After Effects, this is a film that cleverly uses contrasting colours to paint a vivid picture of two nations separated by a 250 kilometre border.
Hailing from the same small town as the interviewees that inspired her film, this is a story Kim obviously felt very motivated to tell and passionate to share and that passion is clearly evident in her simmering short.
With The River well received on the festival circuit, Heeseon is now working on a new short titled On Origin – which tells the story of two women who miss their plane back from the Himalayas.