While the Busan festival is still feeling the political repercussions of its decision to screen “The Truth Shall Not Sink With the Sewol,” the controversial documentary about the capsizing of Sewol ferry in 2014 that was critical of the government, the general political climate and the impact on artistic freedom, however, has slowly changed.
South Korea has been battered with political upheavals stemming from scandals, and earlier this year President Park Geun-hye was removed from office, and a new government has taken over.
But three recent docs, “Moo-hyun, Tale of Two Cities (a.k.a Our President),” “Criminal Conspiracy” and “The Reservoir Game,” all take a strong stand on their subjects, and are finding receptive audiences.
In the past, political documentaries rarely enjoyed box office success. “Moo-hyun,” about South Korea’s former president Roh Moo-hyun, however, has managed strong ticket sales. It earned $12.91 million from 1.85 million admissions.
“Conspiracy” and “Reservoir” either directly criticize or accuse the former President Lee Myung-back government’s of corruption. Lee is currently the target of investigations of his time in office, 2008-2013.
As “Conspiracy” explores how public broadcasting stations such as KBS and MBC have changed over the last 10 years under the conservative government, MBC executives requested for a preliminary injunction against screening of the film, but the court rejected the request.
“Reservoir” follows renowned political journalist Joo Jin-woo as he casts a doubt on alleged secret fund.
“I hope formal investigative authorities take over and conclude it,” said Kim O-jun, producer of the film.
Critics point out that Korean audiences are showing more interest in political documentaries because they have recently experienced the more political turmoil than ever.
“They can be seen as journalism documentaries—journalism in the form of documentary. As more and more people distrust journalism and broadcasting [as illustrated in “Conspiracy”], they find those documentaries more realistic and credible,” film critic Kang Seong-ryul told Variety.