South Korean documentary film “#AfterMeToo” examines how things have become a little different for many women out there in the South Korean society since the #MeToo Movement in 2017. Sure, there are still lots of things to be changed for them even at present, but several female figures in this documentary remind us that women in South Korea will not be silenced anymore no matter what will occur next, and that is surely touching to see at least.
The documentary actually consists of four individual short documentary films respectively directed by four different female South Korean filmmakers, and the first one, which is directed by Park So-hyeon, focuses on a small but significant gender movement at one certain female high school in Seoul. There was some male teacher who has been notorious among students for his very inappropriate attitude and behavior to them for years, and several anonymous graduates of 2019 willingly tell us about how they and many other students came to show their support for a schoolmate of theirs who bravely came froward for exposing that sexual predator. Emboldened by the ongoing #MeToo movement, they proudly expressed their solidarity on the windows of their school building, and that led to a conflict between them and the faculty staff of their school, who seemed to care more about securing the public image of their school.
Nevertheless, the students were not deterred at all to the end. On one day, an unknown graduate of their school did a little demonstration at the school for showing more support for their movement, and that was just a tip of the enormous support they received from the outside. In the end, that sexual predator was prosecuted and then sentenced to several years of imprisonment, and the students were proud of their righteous activities against the injustice which should have been eradicated many years ago.
The second documentary, which is directed by Lee Som-yi, pays attention to a middle-aged woman who writes “I become healthy in my body and mind.” more than once everyday. On the surface, this woman is just a plain working-class person, but there is an old sexual trauma she has not let out from the deep corner of her mind for years, and now she is going to go down to her rural hometown for finally revealing that outside.
Of course, despite lots of preparation for her public speech, she is understandably afraid and hesitant even when she is about to begin her speech in her hometown, but she eventually comes to speak out during next several minutes. Although nobody seems to listen to her words amplified by a number of speakers which are placed here and there around her hometown, her speech comes to function as a sort of exorcism for her personal demons, and that repeatedly written phrase of hers comes to feel a bit different than before as she keeps going with her life as usual.
Directed by Kangyu Ga-ram, the third documentary introduces us to several local female artists who began each own #MeToo movement in their artistic fields as a number of prominent South Korean male artists including Kim Ki-duk were exposed for many years of sexual violence and exploitation hidden behind their artistic careers. They and many other female artists in South Korea joined together for bringing more gender equality and sensitivity to their artistic fields, and they actually made some progress thanks to their passionate efforts.
However, they are still frustrated about how their artistic fields are not changed much even at present, and they also show some personal concern on their individual careers. While they have been willingly devoting themselves a lot to their urgent causes, they also recognize their growing exhaustion, and they often wonder whether they really should focus more on their careers for a while at least. After all, they all are artists first before being activists, aren’t they?
In case of the fourth documentary, which is directed by Kim So-ram, it simply listens to four anonymous interviewees who honestly tell us about how they were sexually abused or exploited in their pursuit of desire and love. In case of one interviewee, she was very frank about what she desired from the beginning, and she did not hesitate much in case of having a quick sex with man. Not so surprisingly, that was not always pleasant to say the least due to the insensitivity of many of her male sex partners, and she still feels hurts as remembering some of her very unpleasant sexual experiences.
Interestingly, the documentary later broadens its main subject a bit more via its last interviewee, a young gay man who also has his own unpleasant sexual experience just like the other ones in the documentary. When he was approached by some guy via an online dating application, he did not worry much just because this guy said he simply wanted to give some massage, but, what do you know, their subsequent private encounter turned out to be very disagreeable to say the least. To be frank with you, as a guy who had a considerable number of various sexual experiences during last six years, I understand him to some degrees, and I must confess that I still feel disgusted whenever I think of some central Asian dude who often handled my body like a sex doll during several sexual encounters between me and him.
On the whole, “#AfterMeToo” is an earnest presentation of how far South Korean women come via the #MeToo movement, and it is certainly worthwhile to watch considering how the South Korean society remains quite insensitive to gender issues in addition to allowing male backlashes against women. As shown from the epilogue part, women in South Korea still need to fight and struggle a lot for gender equality, but they will not step back at all, and they surely deserve more support and solidarity in my trivial opinion.