Special Screening of Documentary Films Retrieved from Russian Film Archive

2021-10-26 ~ 2021-11-09
Special Screening of Documentary Films Retrieved from Russian Film Archive
10 documentary films unearthed from the Russian film archive will be presented on KMDb VOD. The Russian film archive is one of the primary sources of film footage during Japanese occupation of Korea. This special screening presents a total of 10 documentary films produced during the Japanese occupation: 5 sound documentary films, included in the DVD of The Past Unearthed, The 4th Encounter: Moving Images From Gosfilmofond (containing out-of-print films from 1993 to 2006); 1 silent documentary film that was not included in the DVD at the time; and an additional 4 films acquired in 2010 and 2020. This online screening provides Korean and English subtitles, making this footage of Korea under Japanese rule accessible to a wide audience. 
Since its first visit to Russia in 1993, the Korean Film Archive has found and acquired 17 Joseon-related films through the Russian film archive. The collection includes 7 fictional films (national policy films) and 10 documentary films. These 17 films have been determined to possess historical value for their description of life in Japan and Joseon during the Japanese occupation of Korea (from the 1920s to the 1940s). Yet, as there might be more undiscovered Joseon-related films in the Russian film archive, it can be said that the Russian film archive is still of great importance to Korean history.
The Japanese occupation of Korea can be divided into three phases: the military rule from 1910 to 1919; the cultural rule from 1920 to 1930; and the assimilation rule from 1931 to 1945. Livestock Industry Promotion Exhibition in Hwanghae-do (황해도 축산공진회) and Livestock Industry of Korea (조선의 축산업), as well as A Letter from Tokyo Pt. 2 (동경에서(2)) are documentary films produced during the period of cultural rule. They possess high value for cultural anthropological research, such a cultural and industrial event called “Livestock Industry Promotion Exhibition” or introducing the landscapes and people of Tokyo to Koreans. Meanwhile, The Sheep in Northern Joseon Speak (북선의 양은 말한다), In the Rear in Joseon (총후의 조선), and Joseon Our Rear Base (조선 우리의 후방) and Patriots Day in Joseon (조선의 애국일) are full-fledged Japanese propaganda films, which are useful for examining how the Japanese colonial system operated in Joseon. In addition, Korean Newsreel #11 (조선시보 제11보) and Japanese Chronicles (일본실록) show the true face of Japan's total mobilization of human and material resources at a time when Japan’s defeat was imminent.
In these films, Korea as a nation is portrayed as humiliated and even subordinate. Although those images might be, in a sense, the product of the fabrication forged by the creator of the films or the Empire of Japan, they might also require an active interpretation based on the contemporary context. We hope that this special screening will provide an opportunity to come into closer contact with the lives of Korean people who lived under Japanese rule.

  • 01. Livestock Industry Promotion Exhibition in Hwanghae-do (Hwanghae-do chuksangongjinhoe) , 1924
    1924 / Silent / Subtitle: Korean

    The film documents an exhibition for livestock industry promotion held in Sariwon, Hwanghae-do from October 21 to 25, 1924. At that time, Sariwon was an up-and-coming city whose “daily development is known to everyone” (Chosun Ilbo, October 9, 1924). The exhibition was held as a grand festival, attracting crowds of 30,000 on its opening day and 40,000 the following day. A moving camera passes through the square decorative doors of various designs installed in Sariwon’s downtown, conveying the festival atmosphere. Acquired in 2010, and transferred in 4K resolution.
  • 02. Livestock Industry of Korea (Joseonui chuksaneop) , 1924
    1924 / Silent / Subtitle: Korean

    Similar to Livestock Industry Promotion Exhibition in Hwanghae-do, this film contains another livestock exhibition held at Sariwon Public Agricultural School in Hwanghae-do Province. While Livestock Industry Promotion Exhibition in Hwanghae-do conveys the overall festive atmosphere and the expressions of the crowd, Livestock Industry of Korea shows livestock such as chickens, cows, pigs, and ducks exhibited at the festival, the farmers exhibiting them, and the award ceremony. This film focuses more on the details of the festival. According to the related materials, at the time of the exhibition, there were other events, such as hunting contests, restaurants, essay contests, concerts, and motion-picture screenings. Acquired in 1993.
  • 03. A Letter from Tokyo Pt. 2 (Donggyeongeseo(2)) , 1920
    Estimated to be produced after 1927 / Silent / Subtitle: Korean

    The footage contains scenery from various areas in Tokyo such as Akasaka, Ueno Park, and Shimbashi. As Korean subtitles are included, it is presumed to have been produced for the Korean audience. The film vividly documents sights and scenes of Tokyo including Tenryumon, a Chinese-style building that was a popular spot in Ueno Park before its destruction in the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945; the activities of the Tokyo City Youth League, established in 1925, who played a role in the support of the wartime system; people walking downtown; and the movement of a train from Shimbashi Station through Tokyo Station to Kanda Station. Acquired in 2010, and transferred in 4K resolution.
  • 04. The Sheep in Northern Joseon Speak (Bukseonui Yangeun Malhanda) , 1934
    1934 / Production: Japanese Government-General of Joseon / Silent / Subtitle: Korean, English

    In the 1930s, Japan implemented a colonial policy called the “Policy of Sheep for North and Cotton for South.” The policy forced cotton cultivation in the southern region of the Korean Peninsula and sheep raising in the north in order to secure raw materials for its own industry. The film chronicles the process of transporting thousands of sheep on a boat from Australia to the Unggi region (now Seonbong in North Korea), how the sheep adapt after their arrival, and the process of wool production. The narration of the film, which appears as intertitles, is from the sheep's point of view, giving the film a whimsical, children’s-movie-like touch. Although the film hides its purpose of explicit propaganda behind its family-friendly format, it is of great importance; it gives us a glimpse into one aspect of the policy of expropriation of cotton and sheep under the Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. Acquired in 2010.
  • 05. In the Rear in Joseon (chong-hu-ui cho-seon) , 1938
    1938 / Production: Japanese Government-General of Joseon / Audio: Japanese / Subtitle: Korean, English

    This is a propaganda film that promotes Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and orders that Koreans to be ready for battle and armed with the Yamato (Japanese) spirit. Women are exhorted to donate a spoonful of rice each time they cook, while men are advised to quit drinking and smoking and donate the money they save to the war effort. The film illustrates how the Japanese colonial rule gave each person a role, however small, so that everyone could serve in the wartime machine. Acquired in 1993.
  • 06. Joseon, Our Rear Base (Joseon uriui hubang) , 1939
    Circa 1939 / Production: Japanese Government-General of Joseon (est.) / Audio: Korean / Subtitle: Korean, English

    This is a propaganda film made after the establishment of the wartime total mobilization system. The film includes various war efforts, including Gyeongseong Prefectural Association's offering of airplanes; prisoners' contribution of heavy machine guns; the inauguration of the Joseon Youth League for war support; a ceremony to celebrate the fall of Wuhan; a Chinese consul's visit to the Joseon Shrine; visits from Italian and Mongolian delegations to Joseon; and encouragement of bond purchases. The narration at the end is recorded in Korean in a heroic tone. The narration encourages everyone to faithfully pursue his or her livelihood, accelerate the implementation of national policies, and achieve the 'purpose of the Holy War.' It is the only extant film of the ‘news films in Korean language” produced by the Japanese Government-General of Joseon during the Japanese colonial period. Acquired in 1994.
  • 07. Patriots Day in Joseon (Joseonui aegugil) , 1940
    1940 / Production: Japanese Government-General of Joseon / Audio: Japanese / Subtitle: Korean, English

    The Japanese Government-General of Joseon designated ‘Patriots Day’ in September 1937, requiring all citizens to visit the Joseon Shrine on the first day of every month, raise the Japanese flag, clean up their neighborhoods, offer silent tributes, and practice the Gymnastics for the Imperial Subjects. The Government-General awarded medals to loyal citizens for exemplary achievement of these tasks. In particular, on the day of Patriots Day, all people had to stop what they were doing and pay their respects on the spot following the time signal. A woman washing clothes, elderly people ice fishing, and factory workers; men and women of all ages pay tribute in silence at the time signal, which makes for stirring cinema. Although the film was made to promote Patriots Day, the villagers' various community activities such as the rice-saving movement, the waste collection campaign, and collaborative farming are presented in a peaceful fashion. Acquired in 2006.
  • 08. Ondol , 1941
    1941 / Production: Japanese Government-General of Joseon / Audio: Japanese / Subtitle: Korean, English

    This documentary film was produced by the Japanese Government-General of Joseon to introduce Joseon's ondol (a traditional Korean sub-floor heating system) and winter culture to Japan. The film takes a close look at the heating mechanism of the ondol, the installation process, how Koreans get through the winter in a house equipped with ondol, children's various winter games, and a visit to a kitchen, where 'gourd dippers' (unfamiliar to Japanese people) are shown and Korean names for things, such as ‘food blade' for a kitchen knife, are described. This film’s tone resembles an anthropological report. The ending is also impressive. The film beautifully utilizes the sound of fulling cloth resonating quietly on a winter night. Collected in 2020, and transferred in 4K resolution.
  • 09. Korean Newsreel #11 (Joseonsibo je11bo) , 1943
    Circa 1943 / Production: Joseon Film Production Corporation / Audio: Japanese / Subtitle: Korean, English

    The film is a war-propaganda newsreel film produced when Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War was imminent. The film covers the visit to the birthplace of the late Captain Choe Myeong-ha (Takeyama in Japanese), the first Korean-born Air Force officer who was killed in an operation to attack an airfield on Sumatra. It introduces the captain's parents and keepsakes, and follows junior officers undergoing military training at the captain's alma mater. The film also covers the training of young sailors, the process of making pine coal oil using rosin, the achievement of 1.2 billion won of savings, and mining ore for military supplies. Acquired in 1994.
  • 10. Japanese Chronicles (Ilbonsillok) , 1941
    Circa 1943 / Audio: Japanese / Subtitle: Korean, English

    The film begins with a number indicating that the number of volunteers for the army increased sharply from 1938 to 1940 (by 35 times) after the National Mobilization Law was promulgated in 1938. It shows scenes of the volunteers in a boot camp such as close-order drill, bayonet drill, and guerrilla training. The boot-camp scenes reveal the frantic urgency of the wartime system in the early days of the Pacific War that literally 'mobilized' all human and material resources. After the volunteers are summoned to boot camp in the morning, they all pay their respects toward the Japan's Ise Grand Shrine across the sea. It once again reminds us of the sorrow of losing one’s own country to invaders. Acquired in 1994.

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