YIDFF 2009 New Asian Currents
American Alley
An Interview with Kim Dong-ryung (Director)

I Was Dedicated at All Costs to Depicting These Women Determined to Live

Q: Did you find yourself in any dangerous situations during filming?

KD: I sensed all sorts of danger, from the nightclub madams to the managers. Before I made this film, I worked with women’s organization Durebang as an activist for about a year and helped in escaping women that those people wanted to use, so it was inevitable that I’d be viewed with suspicion. During filming I’d try to bring my camera inside, but they’d stop me first at the door and tell me to stop. So I looked for an entrance in the back alleys, and smuggled the camera in by putting it in a baby carriage and wrapping it in a blanket. Even though I tried to make myself blend in by changing my hairstyle and clothing, the nightclub managers still tailed me on occasion. I’m often asked “Why didn’t you film the club where the women work?” But I believe that their true way of life emerges when they’re at home in the afternoon.

American Alley is actually a street with many nightclubs, but now people use the name to describe the area where people who work in the base town live, and so I gave the film the title American Alley. I wanted to show that, exposing the environment in which. Also, when Korean people hear the words “base town,” typically the first thing that comes into their minds is a street with nightclubs where Filipinas and Russian women stand around and dance in tiny skirts. So when I say I made a film set in the base town, I think everyone has an urge to see that kind of place, whereas it was my intention to disappoint those people by instead not showing it.

Q: I understand that shooting the film was difficult, and you frequently had to stop for a month before going back and shooting again, so where did you find the impetus to complete the film despite that?

KD: I felt that if I didn’t finish it, I would have had to die. The reason for that is because I’d immersed myself in that environment for four or five years, and had been through countless hardships and bizarre experiences of all kinds. If I didn’t make it into a film, everything I had gone through would have been for nothing, so I dedicated myself to it at all costs. I think that completing a film involves coming to a conclusion, but those women’s lives still go on to this day, so there is no conclusion. But as I am filmmaker, I had to finish it. There was no way I was going to forcibly create a conclusion for it and I wasn’t sure what do, but as time went on Auntie K passed away, Maria gave birth and so on, so I think I was able to bring it to a close naturally.

Q: In conveying the realities of life in the base town to a wide audience through your film, what kind of influence do you think it will have on the lives of the women who live there?

KD: I didn’t set out to make this film because I wanted to make social realities known. Naturally, audiences first take in the realities facing the base town as information. But this film emerged from my desire to express my experience of these women’s daily rhythms, the emotions they deal with, and the inspiration I gained from them. It would please me most if viewers are able to empathize with these women, who are determined to eke out a living for themselves in the base town.

(Compiled by Tanaka Kayako)

Interviewers: Tanaka Kayako, Iwahana Michiaki / Interpreter: Nemoto Rie / Translator: Jason Gray
Photography: Chiku Hiroko / Video: Kimuro Shiho / 2009-10-11