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Ko - production in Busan
  • MANSHIN: Ten Thousand Spirits
  • by SONG Soon-jin /  Mar 10, 2014

  • Directed by PARK Chan-kyong
    Starring KIM Keum-hwa, KIM Sae-ron, RYU Hyun-kyung, MOON So-ri
    Release Date March 6, 2014
     
    What does shamanism mean in the 21st century? Media artist and movie director PARK Chan-kyong asks this question in his new production MANSHIN: Ten Thousand Spirits.
     
    KIM Geum-hwa, the main character, was a lonely girl in her childhood because she was able to see ghosts and said strange things. At the age of 14, she got married to avoid being drafted as a sexual slave for the Japanese army but her days with her in-laws were full of abuse and hunger. She couldn’t endure the marriage and ran away, returning to her own parents. Since that time, her psychic powers grew more severe and finally, like her grandmother, she became a shaman at the age of 17.
    As Korea suffered Japanese occupation and the Korean War, the life of shaman KIM also fell into turmoil. During the Korean War she was on the verge of death many times, being suspected of spying by both the North and the South. However, at the same time, she comforted others who were also in dire situations.
     
    Then, she put her hometown behind her and settled in South Korea where she often performed exorcisms for unknown soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the war. In the 1970s, KIM underwent a lot of persecution and suffering due to social movements to overthrow shamanism. At that time the public viewed the traditional religion as a pseudo-religion that was misleading the public. Christians mocked shamanism as being a cult of devils. In the 1980s, amidst a cultural trend to rediscover Korea’s traditional culture, she was recognized as an artist and came back into the spotlight.
     
    In addition to being designated as an intangible cultural asset, her name became known to people through appearances in various media. The title ‘Manshin,’ an honorific term for a shaman, was given to her for these reasons.
     
    Director PARK depicts the ups and downs of KIM’s life by following the details in her autobiography, Climb Over a Silk Flower. The film is a mix of documentary, based on KIM’s own words, and fiction production starring three actresses; KIM Sae-ron (A Brand New Life [2009], The Man from Nowhere [2010]), RYU Hyun-kyung (The Servant [2010], Cyrano Agency [2010]) and MOON So-ri (Oasis [2002], A Good Lawyer’s Wife [2003]). Ghosts and imaginary sounds which KIM sees and hears overlap exquisitely on top of their acting.
     
    PARK Chan-kyong previously illuminated on the subject of traditional Korean religion with his media work Sindoan in 2008. “Through MANSHIN: Ten Thousand Spirits I wanted to portray shamanism as a mature culture like other religious cultures,” said the director. “By incorporating a movie with the traditional culture which KIM has inherited, I hope that the audience can experience an exciting exorcism through the screen,” he added. As PARK intended, using the ritual performances in this production is invigorating but there is something else we should take note of. PARK grasped various aspects of shamanism through KIM’s religious practices; as a poet, an actress and a dancer, KIM Geum-hwa arouses gathered crowds who come to pray for good luck or get rid of bad luck. She also becomes a comforter when she performs rituals to console and remember those people who died in war. The scenes of KIM crying and laughing together with vulnerable people or ghosts are a dedication to Korea’s people and the country’s history. MANSHIN: Ten Thousand Spirits shows why shamanism has held a special meaning in Korea until now.
     
    By SONG Soon-jin
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