“When you have no money, you become more creative.” That was a comment made by filmmaker and podcaster Kevin Smith at a Q&A I attended a few years ago. Restrictions don’t mean that things cannot be done; it just means you need to work harder and think outside the box. Sometimes money is not the toughest factor. Many countries have to deal with strict guidelines made by their government on what they can and cannot portray in their art. In Darcy Paquets’ book, New Korean Cinema, he writes about the many restrictions the Korean government places on their filmmakers, yet they have become a model of how to continue to tell fascinating stories and defy their government without actually getting anyone into trouble.
The Host is about a family who try to find their youngest after Americans put everyone’s life in danger. As a viewer who has no background in Korean history or culture, I noticed there were scenes in this film that depicted customs explaining a little background on their upbringing and mindset. The grandfather is so respectful to authorities, and he bows down when the police come in one particular scene. He tells his children repeatedly not to be disrespectful to the government or to their older brother who had it the roughest and so forth but Paquet’s book allows more insight in the history and customs of Korea that explain why he acted in such a manner. The circumstances of how certain generations were brought up in such a strict regime influences the film while still captivating it’s international viewers.
The Korean film industry is not the only one that deals with restrictive content. For example, a similar situation is that of the Iranian film industry, where there can be no sex (including kissing), no violence, women must cover up from head to toe at all times, no bad language, and no insult to the government. Imagine doing that with Hollywood, they would be out of business within a month! However, they have succeeded in making films that are powerful and universal, such as the Oscar winning film, A Separation about a couple going through a divorce. Matters of class, parenting, money, and marriage are all discussed without breaking any of the rules. It still holds as one of the best films ever made because there is something relatable for everyone. This film connected widely with the human experience of being a parent and the duties outside of just being a son or daughter.
Restrictions, especially government restrictions, do not mean that art is dead. These two examples of films that have won audience and critical praise prove that true art cannot be denied.
Paquet, Darcy. New Korean Cinema: Breaking the Waves. London; New York: Wallflower Press, 2010.