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Interview with Cecilia Kang, director of «Partió de mí un barco llevándome»

Interview with Cecilia Kang, director of «Partió de mí un barco llevándome»

Just as the protagonist is challenged when reading these testimonies, I suppose the same thing must have happened to you when you found out about this practice. What was your first approach to the subject and what motivated you to develop it into a film?

In 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a talk given by Kim Bok-dong, a “comfort woman” survivor. This elderly woman, with features so similar to mine, told how at 15 years old she was put on a ship that embarked on a journey to a destination noto f her choosing. She told us about how she was raped more than 20 times a day. Of how she saw other women die next to her. She spoke of the guilt she felt when she was finally able to return to her home, but others were not. And the shame inflicted upon her by a society which made her remain silent until she was 60 years old. This testimony was devastating. Until that moment, I was completely unaware of that atrocious piece of history. For many years I tried to self-censor the idea of making a film about this, because I felt that I did not have enough tools to be able to cover that topic. But the image of her was still very present in me. That was the impetus, seeing how I could talk about that topic from here, with who I was, with the tools I had.

Again, as you had done in your debut film, you reflect on female mandates and roles in the Korean community in Argentina. Are these reflections contemplated from the beginning of the project or do they appear unconsciously as you make the film?

Topics such as the role of women and mandates in society have obsessed me since I was a child. More so coming from a Korean family, growing up with two cultures at the same time, comparing them, denying them, contradicting them. These are topics that touch me personally. With my documentaries, I try to put them on a specific level, like an object of study. Especially when one has to go out and look for financing and she has to put into words what needs to be financed. But then in doing it, I am a more sentimental person, and the film takes me through other vertices that if I had to put them into words it would be very difficult for me. There are realities that give back to me, educate me, much more than I could imagine. And from there perhaps understand a little more about those topics. All the reflections materialize with the finished film. Luckily, I don't have any concrete answers to anything. But many reflections.

How was working with the protagonist? And what was it like accompanying her on a trip that was so important for her and for her family history?

Melanie was a blow to the heart. After I met her, she changed the direction and form of the film. And then the pandemic happened. During her isolation, I had many talks with her. What began as “research” work became a very deep space of intimacy. But it was also a really fun job, being able to laugh at ourselves. Despite having different life experiences, we share many things that perhaps we don't with other people. I am infinitely grateful for that possibility that we were given, to trust each other. Traveling with her to Korea was a very intense experience. Although we arrived with a script and a shooting plan because we had very few days, we had a constant feeling of being lost and amazed, in that new, unknown place. And it was seeing her inhabit that experience. But, on the other hand, it was a very magical and silent way of tying up many ends of that complex and intense framework that we had been weaving.