Yeon Do said “I used to think we should fight to change the world, but now I think we should make sure the world doesn’t change us.”
Here is the list of cast and some photos
Gong Yoo as Kang In Ho
Jung Yumi as Seo Yoo Jin
Kim Hyeon Soo as Kim Yeon Doo
Baek Seung Hwan as Jeon Min Soo
Jeong In Seo as Jin Yoo Ri
Kim Ji Yeong as In Ho’s mother
No film should be this hard to watch, but if it wasn’t – then you would have to question your humanity.
I like the other title “Silenced” since it fits what happened in the film better.
I need to preface this review with the fact that I have no idea how to write one. The pressure I am feeling right now to write a decent one comes directly from the children this film was based on. The novel and movie are based on incidents that happened to the children so it’s their voice that needs to be heard. Most reviews probably end with glowing praise for the actors and that would be the appropriate time to encourage viewers to go watch this film, but I want to start with that first. Everyone should go see this film in a movie theater preferably so that the film generates more money and attention. Consider it charity or you doing your part to chip in for a worthy cause since films like this need to be made and the only way is if they garner enough attention and revenue. I would go see it twice if I could handle the emotional content, but as it stands I broke my own record for sob fests during parts of the film. I can’t remember the last time I cried that much during a movie, but this story just gets to you and pushes down on your pain threshold and doesn’t ease up. Most of the people around me didn’t even cry hardly, but during certain scenes – I was overwhelmed by the tragedy that was unfolding in front of my eyes and I sort of scared my friend, the people around me, and myself with my uncontrollable weeping.
Normally when I watch Korean films, I don’t really need a translator as long as nothing is written down so in a way this review is actually from a foreigner’s point of view since I can’t read Korean/hangul. Since this film was about deaf children who suffered abuse, there is a lot of signing going on so you need to be able to read the translations on the screen. My poor friend had no idea what this film was even about so suddenly she had to pay extra careful attention and translate into simple Korean what was written on the screen.
There is no question about it, the director Hwang Dong Hyuk did a marvelous job with this film. From start to finish, he told a story that most people would not want to tell because of the delicate subject matter, but he told it in a way that it will be etched in our minds for longer than we would care to remember. When people describe movies as being gritty, I never really got that until this one. It’s tough, courageous, and uncompromising – he didn’t shy away from showing us those scenes of molestation and how they came about. You want to look away and hide behind your hands, but you stop and think if those kids had to endure those anguishing moments, the least you can do is watch and get a little sense of what they went through.
My friend knows I am a huge fan of Gong Yoo’s so it came as no surprise to her when I said I wanted to watch his new film. I only know Gong Yoo’s acting ability from Coffee Prince and two other films, but none of those character portrayals came even close to the intensity of this role. I never doubted for a second he wouldn’t be convincing as In Ho, but I had no idea he would be so good that with each passing scene, the image of Gong Yoo the romantic comedy actor was erased and replaced with one who showed integrity and strength with each difficult scene and line. As an actor he has a lot to be proud of because he made this character human in every sense of the word. His character “Inho” didn’t shy away from his moral duty to those victims despite his own responsibility to his ailing young daughter and having to fight his own conscience along the way must have been quite a struggle. As Gong Yoo’s fan I am so proud he did such an amazing job, but I am also grateful since he was part of the reason that made me want to go see this film to begin with. I don’t think it matters if you go into this film expecting to be wowed by him, since you are going to walk out not even thinking of him. The story itself eclipses Gong Yoo the actor and the last thing you think about as you leave the theater is stunned bewilderment that such an atrocity could have happened to those young children.
There is a new batch of child actors you should keep an eye out for cuz these youngsters took on some challenging roles and brought a strident voice for those real victims this film was based on. Kim Hyeon Soo’s portrayal of Kim Yeon Doo was by far the most impressive since her witness testimony not only shook up the whole court, but it also had her perpetrators shaking in fear. It’s like this young actress took on this role wholeheartedly and didn’t step out of character even once. Despite how horrible filming some of those scenes must have been, she remained a pillar of strength and had a maturity beyond her years in her eyes. Hyeon Soo was able to emote more than just the physical pain these children endured and her eyes seemed vacant as if to show just how dead they must have felt inside after going through those hideous moments. Another young actor who did equal justice to his role was Baek Seung Hwan as Jeon Min Soo. I think this kid’s scenes made me cry the most. For most of the film, this kid had the worst beating scenes that had me flinching just watching. I have no idea how they filmed all that abuse without him actually getting hit a few times, but I really hope he wasn’t harmed. His character had it worse than the other two since in real life, Min Soo’s grandmother is the one who settled and took payment so that Min Soo never took the stand to give his testimony. What she didn’t get was it wasn’t her pain to sell. She robbed Min Soo of his right to address his assailants, face them in court, and make them publicly face what they did to him. A little part of me wants to give her some slack for selling out what her grandchild endured to provide for his future since he can have a proper education with that money. Also, Min Soo’s grandmother was already burdened with taking care of Min Soo’s father who was ill so anyone can sympathize with her desperate situation, but it just doesn’t seem fair that justice for Min’s Soo was the real price they had to pay. (His grandmother was played by the director’s real life grandmother and she looked to be in her late 80s or early 90s.) I have a feeling Seung Hwan is going to grow up to be one of those actors that take on more serious roles than comedy. He already has the talent and looks to become a lead actor someday so with this film under his belt, every drama is going to want to hire him for the childhood scenes.
I wanted to leave out mentioning Jung Yumi as Seo Yoo Jin on purpose. The actress did a great job, but I had a problem with her real life character and not Yumi’s portrayal. I felt a little frustrated with Yoo Jin early on in the movie since her decisions and actions would affect the case and I strongly disagree with some of her choices. It’s hard to get into without giving away spoilers so I chose to leave it out. In real life, Yoo Jin took care of the kids until money came in to provide housing for those children who were abused. The scene I liked her in was when the religious fanatics held a demonstration outside of the court holding up signs and yelling in support of two of the guilty men claiming they were upstanding citizens who were innocent and another side of protestors were calling those men some names children should not be hearing and Yoo Jin covered the eyes of one of the children and said to In Ho – “this is the time when I think it’s a good thing these children can’t hear.”
This movie is not for the faint of heart. You are going to need nerves of steel to endure those molestation scenes and even the tame scenes when the kids are happy and normal. Even then your heart breaks cuz you know this is fleeting and that most of the time they are haunted by what happened to them. I knew going in this movie would be hard to watch, not just for the subject matter but how it would be portrayed. What I didn’t anticipate was the extent of the corruption that went on to cover up these crimes starting from the religious community, local police, lawyers, and the judge that presided over the case. I kept telling myself in America if such a thing happened, those perpetrators would never see the light of day and get a minimum of at least ten years of prison each. Unfortunately the corruption had deep pockets and the three men on trial only received light sentences of 6 months in jail and two year probation for one and one year probation each for the other two. You would think the most horrifying thing would be the light sentences they received, but the truly terrifying part is one of those teachers is back at work.
As a person who cherishes eloquence, there are two lines in the movie that just got to me. One of them was when In Ho and Yoo Jin took the three kids to the beach to play and enjoy the weather. InHo and Yeon Do sat together watching the other 3 playing near the water’s edge. Yeon Do was sharing with InHo about how she used to be able to hear when she was younger. She looked out over the water and signed about how she misses hearing things like the sound of the waves crashing and stuff. That is when In Ho signed to her “the really beautiful things in life you don’t need to see or hear, you feel with your heart.” I don’t know why that line got to me, but I was moved by his choice of words and it just made that scene so complete and perfect.
The second one came out when InHo walks from the subway train and stands in front of a poster for an advertisement for Gong Ji Young’s novel. It was what Yeon Do had said to In Ho: “I used to think we should fight to change the world, but now I think we should make sure the world doesn’t change us.” If there was ever a maxim for bravery for enduring what those children should never have endured, I hope this line could represent the one thing those men could never take away from her. They may have robbed her of her innocence and childhood, but what was left unscathed was her fighting spirit to survive.
*I need to note that the sentencing for those offenses were based on the movie version and only three perpetrators were portrayed, but in real life there were more than three men and their punishment varied. Plus my friend didn’t pay attention and couldnt tell me if all three received 6 months for sure for this movie version. In the novel, only the teacher served 6 months and the twins did not serve any time at all. Read the following articles for more accurate info on the outcome of the real trial.
I was going to just post individual links to these articles, but I thought it was more important to read them all at once
Interview with the director Director Hwang Dong-hyeok, who previously directed the 2007 hit film “My Father” from Chosun:
A slew of sex crimes against children with disabilities that took place from 2000 to 2005 at a special institute for deaf youngsters remain unsolved six years after they were first brought to light, sparking anger among social groups.
Author Gong Ji-young in 2009 published a novel inspired by the case that reignited public interest in it. Now a new film adaptation is once again stirring controversy among viewers, who are calling for the case to be reinvestigated.
“I expected the film would generate discussion and debate, but I didn’t think the response would be this quick and explosive”, said director Hwang Dong-hyeok, clearly dismayed by all the controversy his movie has provoked.
“The issues portrayed in the movie — sexual violence against children, corrupt ties between police and influential families, negligence of duty by civil servants — is not fictitious, but can be seen regularly on the daily news”, he said on Tuesday.
“The growing repulsion and rage that people feel every time they hear about such injustices seem to have come to a boil with my movie”.
“The Crucible” has been met with criticism as a disturbing film with little to redeem it due to the graphic scenes portraying children being sexually molested and its depressing ending.
Many people tried to persuade Hwang to change the ending, telling him that he should have the protagonists win their case as people like happy endings. But the director would not be swayed. He said he wasn’t trying to make a feel-good movie, but rather present reality.
“I did it intentionally to make people feel uncomfortable”, he said. “I thought about two things when making this film. First, I wanted to let the world know about this horrific incident. Secondly, I wanted to expose the structural problems of society as revealed during the process of how the case was buried. The scenes of sexual violence and the morbid, unhappy ending were therefore inevitable”.
For some members of the group campaigning for the victims of the case, however, the film did not go far enough in revealing the extent of the horrors that took place.
“Novelist Gong told me that she only managed to depict one third of what actually happened in her novel”, said the director. “And my film couldn’t even deal with all that was written in her book”.
Hwang, a media graduate from Seoul National University, said, “I was greatly interested in social issues as an undergraduate so I would often take part in demonstrations. I took up filmmaking because I was so frustrated by all these unresolved social issues I saw”.
“We can see through films how much we are changed by the world. You can’t change society with just one movie, but looking at the repercussion of the release of this film, we can think about the power film has in terms of positively affecting society”, he said.
“Of course, it is impossible to reopen the case, put the offenders back on trial and punish them now. But we can show how the victims have suffered and try to do something to help them. They haven’t even received an apology yet”.
Inhwa School in Gwangju locks its gates to visitors yesterday as the movie “Dogani” creates a public furor over the horrors that took place there. [YONHAP]
A movie called “Dogani”, or “The Crucible” in English, is shocking viewers by its depiction of sexual abuse of students with disabilities – and how the abusive teachers got away with it.
Based on a true story recounted in a bestselling book by female novelist Gong Ji-young, “Dogani” describes the serial rapes of deaf students by the principal and faculty of Inhwa School, a school for the hearing-impaired in Gwangju. The crimes went on for five years from 2000 to 2005.
The movie has focused public attention on the real case. Six school officials and teachers accused of sexual abuse received slaps on the wrists: two were put on probation, two received punishments of one and two years in prison, and the remaining two weren’t punished at all because the statute of limitations had been reached.
And the school continues operating today. One teacher who escaped punishment, who is surnamed Jeon, 45, was reinstated in January 2008.
The public is calling for the school to be shut down and the statute of limitations for sex offenses to be removed.
The horrors at Inhwa School began in 2000, but it was only in June 2005 that they came to the light after one disgusted faculty member got in touch with a counseling center for sexual violence against the disabled in Gwangju. Police and prosecutors launched an investigation. The school’s administration chief, who was surnamed Kim, 62, was accused in November 2005 of raping or sexually harassing six hearing-impaired students aged between seven and 20.
A teacher surnamed Lee, 40, was arrested at the same time on similar charges. Kim was ultimately convicted and sentenced to one year in jail. Lee got two years.
In June 2008, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea referred four more staffers to the police on similar charges, including the school’s principal, who was also surnamed Kim, and a teacher surnamed Park, 63. At his first trial, Kim was sentenced to five years in prison but after a second trial was let off on probation. (He died of pancreatic cancer in July 2009.) Park was also given probation in his second trial.
They were given probation because they had no previous convictions and because they reached financial agreements with the parents of the victims to drop charges.
A staffer in the administration department surnamed Kim, 45, and a teacher surnamed Jeon, 45, were not arrested because the seven years statute of limitations had expired. Jeon returned to teach at the school in January 2008.
Some parents accepted settlement money from the defendants because they were in financial difficulty.
“Some parents of victims were also disabled, and they dropped the charges against the school officials when the offenders placated them”, said Park Chan-dong, chief of the Special Committee of Gwangju Inhwa School Sexual Violence, a local civic group. “It has been six years since this case came to light but it’s still unsolved … I can’t disband our committee because the school hasn’t kept its promise to compensate the victims or offer counseling”.
After the movie opened last week, public ire over the case has been rising. More than one million people have viewed it, and netizens throughout the country began a signature-seeking campaign online to call for further investigation. So far, 44,000 signatures have been collected. A signature campaign calling for an abolition of the country’s statute of limitation for sex offenses also started on Monday and there were 50,000 signatures collected as of yesterday.
The Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education said Tuesday that it is considering transferring the students at Inhwa School to a public special-education school scheduled to open in two years and eventually close down the school.
“If the public school gets established, the fierce debate over Gwangju Inhwa School will abate naturally”, said Kim Dae-jun, spokesman of Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education.
The education office will also reduce the support fund of 1.8 billion won ($1.5 million) that was allocated yearly to Inhwa School. In 2000, there were 100 students attending the school. Following the rapes, the number of students fell to 75 in 2005 and now the school has only 22 students.
The National Police Agency also announced yesterday it will launch a new investigation into the case by forming a Special Investigation Team of 15 investigators, including 10 sex crime investigators. The team will look into whether there has been further sexual violence at the school.
Ruling Grand National Party member Chin Soo-hee, who completed her term as the welfare minister this month, said yesterday she will push ahead with revising the current Social Welfare Workers’ Law, in an attempt to increase transparency in welfare facilities.
By Yoo Ji-ho, Yim Seung-hye [email@example.com]
Another related article:
A group of netizens are calling for the reinvestigation of sexual assaults committed against hearing-impaired children at a regional school following the release of a film based on the events.
As of Tuesday evening, more than 40,000 Internet users had signed a petition demanding a new probe into sexual assaults perpetrated by teachers and school staff on students at Gwangju Inhwa School for years from 2000.
Following the calls, the Gwangju Metropolitan Office of Education organized a team to inspect the school six years after the incidents took place.
“The school foundation should apologize for the sexual assault and come up with measures to prevent such things from recurring. Local authorities in charge should also reinvestigate the assaults and other human rights infringements at the school and punish those who neglected the case”, a member of a civic group said on Daum’s online petition site.
The film “The Crucible”, based on Gong Ji-young’s bestselling novel of the same title, deals with the true story that came to light in 2005.
According to the investigation at that time, six people including the headmaster sexually harassed or raped at least nine of their deaf students.
Of the six perpetrators, four received prison terms, while the other two escaped punishment because the statute of limitations for their crimes had expired. Among those jailed, two were released later after their terms were suspended.
The families of the victims did not appeal the case after the first trial; and some of the perpetrators are still working at the school.
Signing up for the petition, blogger “Bless” said, “There are people who are shameless. I call for due punishment for the wrongdoers and I hope the law enforcement authorities will make a decision out of good conscience”.
The civic group began the petition Sunday and plans to collect 50,000 signatures by Oct. 20. Calls from citizens are also flooding local authorities for reinvestigation into the case and a special inspection of the school.
But legal experts said that it’s impossible to reopen a case that has been closed with a court verdict.
The Gwangsan District Office, where the school is located, recently sent an official letter to the school foundation, requesting a change of its board of directors.
“The directors were not experts in school and disabled affairs, so we asked the foundation to replace them. We don’t have judicial powers, but we are devising proper inspection measures according to the law”, an official of the district office said.
The regional educational office issued an apology Tuesday and said, “As the office in charge of education for the disabled, we apologize for not having dealt with the case more actively”.
It said when a special public school for the disabled opens in 2013 it will move students from Inhwa to the new facility, with the original facility closing. About 20 students are currently at Inhwa.
The office also formed a special team to address the issue, but faced criticism for the belated action six years after the incident.
“Legal proceedings for those involved are all finished and they can’t be prosecuted for the same charges according to the law. What can the educational office do? Some perpetrators are still at the school, and the office has irresponsibly neglected the incident”, a blogger “Wow” said.
In a related development, Daum Communications has launched a 1-million signature-collecting campaign to change the criminal law so that statute of limitations for sexual crimes involving children will be abolished.