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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Nnebundo Obi at 10:41PM

Blog posting written by Nnebundo A. Obi, FLEFF Intern, South Setauket NY.

Two and a half hours later, my head throbbed with a slight headache and my stomach churned. A film that elicits this sort of reaction is one I know will hold a special place in my mind. My experience of “Swing Kids” flies in the face of what I expected of a Korean musical film that was situated in a POW camp. Hidden beneath the complex and sometimes contradictory histories presented in the film, comedy, and spurts of gun violence lies three fundamental arguments in my opinion.

The first argument is that race and politics are used to turn marginalized groups against each other?

In the film, we are introduced to a series of characters fighting one another based on differences in race, ideologies, gender, culture, nationality. Ironically, all the inhabitants of the camp regardless of who they were, had limited agency and control over their environment because they had to answer to the overseer of the camp. The second is it is difficult to demonize someone once you recognize the depths of their humanity and creativity. Thirdly, it is dangerous to blindly follow any ideology because it might pit people against each other and render any sort of communication incomprehensible or violent.

Swing Kids is disruptive because it explores the convergence of race, political ideologies, class, nationality, colonialism in the context of a fictional film that explores some aspects of the Korean War. One of my favourite parts of the film was that the filmmaker paid attention to developing the relationships between the African-American character and the Asian characters. I would argue that the film explores how power is maintained by encouraging antagonism between different racial groups to discourage the formation of alliances.

 I deeply respect the filmmaker’s choice to depart from telling the typical a war story about blood and guts, and instead exploring the contradictions of war. It dawned on me that even in times of war, life moves on, babies are born, tears are shed, and art is created/shared to sometimes hold hands across what is claimed to be enemy lines.

In our current environmental and political climate, to me, it is important to remember that the overarching environmental threat that we are currently facing affects us all. There are certain things that hold true for all of us. No one is exempt from certain rules governing life and our collective realities. This film disrupts the notion that war is just about the “good vs. the bad guys”, this film explores the little ways in which five people from separate worlds come together to reclaim their humanity through the art of tap dancing.

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