October 22, 2009


Treeless Mountain
(Directed by So Yong Kim)

Out of school for the summer, 6-year-old Jin and her kid sister Bin are left to fend for themselves after their overextended mother abandons them with drunk Big Aunt in a desperate attempt to find their estranged father. Clinging tightly to a promise that their mother will return when their piggy bank is full, the sisters set out on an entrepreneurial venture of catching-grilling-selling grasshoppers to the local kids—only to be shuffled off again to their grandparents’ farm far away from their hometown of Seoul.

Told from the vantage point of the young narrator Jin, writer/director So Yong Kim’s second feature film quietly unfurls the inner workings of two little girls searching for home and trying to make sense of the erratic adults around them. Kim’s deeply felt direction (perhaps inspired from the semi-autobiographical story) of the two young non-actors captures the subtleties of disorientation, despair and, ultimately, resilience. The delicate emotional tenor is achieved through the cinéma vérité aesthetic and stunning cinematic compositions of extreme close-ups and panoramic interludes of South Korean urban and countryside landscape.

Roya Rastegar is an associate programmer at the Tribeca Film Festival and a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Santa Cruz.