Review: ‘Hetnim Kids’

Yoo-hwan Park's "Hetnim Kids" qualifies as a documentary only in the broadest sense of the term: Yes, it's a nonfiction film, but then so are home movies and promotional films -- both of which this resembles. Pic pays homage to Sakuramoto Nursery School, but it's hard to imagine an audience for the film beyond friends and family.

Yoo-hwan Park’s video doc “Hetnim Kids” qualifies as a documentary only in the broadest sense of the term: Yes, it’s a nonfiction film, but then so are home movies and promotional films — both of which this resembles. Pic pays homage to Sakuramoto Nursery School and demonstrates the value of the multicultural approach the school takes. The sentiment is laudable, but it’s hard to imagine an audience for the film beyond the friends and family of those within it.

The 10 kids in the class of 2000 — nicknamed “Hetnim,” Korean for “sun” — have mixed ethnic backgrounds, including Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Chinese, Taiwanese, Brazilian, Peruvian and Bolivian. The teachers try to celebrate all cultures in a nonracist way, despite criticism that they’re misleading the kids in such a protected environment. Way overlong at 78 minutes, the film meanders from one student activity to another, with little structure. There is some cute kiddie footage, but it’s surrounded by slow-moving interviews and extended speechifying. Rough handheld footage and ungrammatical English subtitles don’t help.

Hetnim Kids

Japan

Production

A K and G documentary. Produced by Yoo-hwan Park, Elise Nagano. Directed by Yoo-hwan Park.

Crew

Camera (video, color), Toshihide Tanizaki; editors, Yoo-hwan Park, Elise Nagano, Tanizaki; music, Yoko Sato, Byeong-joo Bae. Reviewed at Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival, Los Angeles, May 4, 2003. Original title: Hetnim Eui Balgeum. Running time: 78 MIN.
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