30 March 2014 | bob the moo
Personal and restrained film with strong meaning
Watching a lot of short recently gives me a conflict in terms of how much I know before I watch them. In many cases it is best to approach them blind and let them work on you, but then on the other hand sometimes a bit of context is useful (for example a short may be limited but might have been made in a contest to go from start to completed film in under 24 hours, or for under £100). Sometimes there are just good stories behind the film that are good to know. I haven't worked out the balance yet, but generally I will read around a bit after watching an interesting short and in the case of Dol I was glad I did – but more of that in a bit.
Watching the film cold as it were, the plot sees a Korean-American man (Nick) who is living with his partner Brian in a gay relationship but is not "out" to his family. The first birthday (Dol) celebrations of his nephew brings Nick to his family where he finds himself both part of the family but yet also isolated from them by virtue of who he is and the secret he keeps from them. For the majority of the film we see the Dol unfold and see the family together. Kwak acts this out well in the lead role as he is restrained and inside himself rather than flamboyant or melodramatic. The film matches this tone and it plays out in a very low- key way, with the focus on family but with that edge of alienation. It doesn't produce a big finish but it did leave an impression on me and I liked the tone it took.
Reading up about it afterwards, the film was actually made by Ahn as a way to come out to his own family as he felt he could not just tell them. He used members of his own family in the film (as Nick's parents) although didn't tell them the whole story of the film, only later letting them watch the completed film to try and make the discussion easier when he then did come out (because apparently they didn't get it when they watched it themselves!). This doesn't make it a better film but it is a nice piece of story to add to a film that did a good job of presenting the sense of being an outsider within one's own family and how it feels to have that divide. A personal film but one that translates to the viewer effectively.