I rarely write on films that I watch at the theatre but Dogani (황동혁, 2011) and the wave that it has brought for the last 1, 2 weeks are worth mentioning. Dogani has been on screen only for a couple of weeks but the film has been a grand success thanks to the media and word of mouth. The provocative content about the sexual harassment of underaged kids with hearing disabilities definitely generated attention. But the fact that the film is based on a real story enrages people, and of course controversy sells, ahem, spreads. Now, there is an on-going movement online to sign a petition to re-investigate the case against the accused. “Netizens” (people who investigate information on the internet) are digging out private information of the actual characters, which turn out to be mostly flawed, causing a lot of privacy problems.
What is happening is that people are mad and they are taking the movie at face value. It might be an overstatement to say that the director’s message in this film is clear. On the first glance, the film does feel like an accusation documentary. The poster reads: 나는 이 사건을 세상에 알리기로 결심했다 (I’ve decided to unveil this incident for the world). However, we must not forget that this movie is not a documentary but a fiction based on a real story. It is sad and cynical but the whole cry for “realness” could be just a keen marketing strategy. I don’t know the director enough to say anything about his “intention” (BIG WORD), but I do worry about the assumption of too many people on the director’s intention. I’m not trying to say that people reaction to the film is abnormal or bad. In fact, if this movie earns money AND actually brings a change to the world, by all means, go for it. However, it is not uncommon to see these passionate rises and then a quicker path to neglect in couple of weeks. Especially since the actual case is already closed.
We hear about these kinds of horror in our society on the news all the time, and I’m quite certain that documentaries on the harassment of minors are shown on television, certainly a more accessible medium than films, every now and then. Why don’t people get as engaged by documentaries as by films like Dogani, which are essentially about the same urgent matters? I also wonder what this has to say for future directors. If a director really wants to send out a message and report an injustice, is a fictional feature film better tool than a documentary?