A Cultural Interpretation of the South Korean Independent Cinema Movement, 1975-2004
University of Kansas
Theatre & Film
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A Cultural Interpretation of the South Korean Independent Cinema Movement, 1975-2004 examines the origin and development of the independent cinema movement in South Korea. The independent cinema movement refers to the films, film theories, film-related cultural activities that emerged as a way to document social realities, to advocate the freedom of artistic expression, and to represent the voices of marginalized social identities. My dissertation is the first attempt in English film scholarship on Korean cinema to explore the history of non-commercial filmmaking conducted in the name of cinema movement from 1970s to 2000s. The primary sources of investigation for this research include films, books, and archive materials. The hitherto unpublished memories and historical information obtained from the direct interviews with the independent filmmakers add originality to this dissertation. Investigating the independent cinema movement offers new perspectives on the cultural study of national cinema movement and the existing scholarship of South Korean cinema. This dissertation questions the dominant historiography regarding South Korean cinema which centers on the 1960s as the `golden age' of South Korean cinema and the 1990s as its renaissance. This position tends to dismiss the intervening decades of the 1970s and 80 as the `dark age' of the national cinema. Defying the conventional view, this study shows the presence of the new generation of filmmakers and young cinephiles who launched a series of new cinema movements from the 1970s onward. In this regard, the 1970s should be reinterpreted as the period that marked the genesis of the new wave consciousness in the history of South Korean cinema. Second, this study analyzes the history of the independent cinema movement as a dialogic process between domestic cultural discourse and foreign film theories. The filmmakers who initiated the independent cinema movement drew on Euro-American art cinemas, New Latin American Cinema, and the feminist films from the West to incorporate them into the domestic cultural context, producing the new concepts such as the Small Film, the People's Cinema and the woman's film. This fact challenges the national cinema discourse which presupposes that the history of South Korean cinema is established within the closed circuit of the national history and traditional aesthetics. My dissertation helps create an alternative perspective by which to see the construction of national cinema as fundamentally an interaction between indigenous popular discourses and international film new waves. Finally, this dissertation takes into consideration the active roles of the independent filmmakers. It examines the films and manuscripts produced by the filmmakers to see how they invented and elaborated their positions about cinema movement in the given cultural field in each period. It pays attention to the cultural field where the filmmakers are conditioned between what they wanted to visualize and what is externally granted. Viewing an established cultural field as a hegemonic construction, this study also investigates the way in which transformation occurs from one cultural field to another.
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