An Interview with Lee Mario (Director)
Born in an Aggressor Nation
Q: What was your motivation for making this film?
LM: When the massacre was first publicly dealt with in a Korean current events magazine and I learned the facts, I was surprised. Korean people only talk about themselves being victims, but when I learned that in fact we also had been perpetrators, I thought we needed to talk about the massacre.
Q: Did the Vietnamese who suffered from the massacre readily agree to be interviewed?
LM: The Vietnamese government is taking a policy line of looking toward the future in its diplomatic relations with South Korea, so the government didn’t approve of dealing with this theme. So, we rolled the camera saying that we were recording the voices of the survivors, without stating that we’d come to shoot a documentary. Also, since Vietnam is a socialist country, we had to apply for permission to film, including where, when and with whom we were meeting, and what we were going to ask them. I learned this later, but apparently someone from the Public Security Office always came to watch the interviews. So I still have some doubts in my mind about how much the people who agreed to interview were able to fully express themselves. It was probably difficult to express their own emotions, given that they’d agreed to be interviewed under those conditions and that the police were right there.
Q: I can imagine there would be criticism with a portrayal that focused on who was victim and who was perpetrator in the massacre, but how did you approach it?
LM: We discussed that point a lot as a production team. My team didn’t want to include stories by Korean soldiers who had fought in the war, but other crew members thought it was necessary. In the end we decided to film and think about whether or not to use the footage at a later point, and at the editing stage we put it in. Listening to the interviews of the soldiers who’d fought in the war, I came to see them as both perpetrators and also victims of the nation and politics. Indeed, the full responsibility lies with the state and politics, and I came to see problems in the very structure that made victims of the soldiers and the Vietnamese citizens.
Q: Did you undergo any other changes through the filming?
LM: Before going to Vietnam I’d had a strong feeling of responsibility and duty that I needed to generate good results, but after I actually went and filmed I came to think that the results didn’t necessarily have to be good. I got the feeling that through the filming, maybe the wounds of the survivors had been soothed a little, and though it’s difficult, through the process of our encounter we slowly grew to understand why we mustn’t wage war.
Q: Was the film screened?
LM: It’s been screened in Korea. The audience looked very pained. It seems like reading an article and actually hearing the stories talked about through film are completely different things. In particular, we edited the interviews on the long side, so I think the time spent watching them must have been pretty tough. In Vietnam, this is a theme that is difficult to deal with officially, so I think it will be hard to screen the film.
Q: What are you future plans?
LM: I’m intending to take my own opinions and make a film about the Kwangju Incident of May 1980, an incident related to the movement for democracy. National troops were dispatched to massacre citizens demonstrating for democracy, but now that date has been established as the remembrance day for the democratic movement, and the ceremonies are attended by even the president. But I think the Kwangju Incident holds some other kind of significance.
(Compiled by Inotani Yoshika)
Interviewers: Inotani Yoshika, Kashiwazaki Mayumi / Interpreter: Yamazaki Remina
Photography: Saito Kenta / Video: Oki Chieko / 2005-10-12