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The Girl from the South begins in 1989 with director José Luis García’s trip to the USSR’s last international festival for communist youth. Held in North Korea, the festival was an eye opener for the García, but never more than when he met Lim Su-kyung, a young South Korean student who made a big splash at the festival by speaking out for reunification of North and South Korea. Swearing that she would cross the North/South border on foot (highly illegal and likely to get you shot), she made such an impression on the young García, who began to search for her 20 years later. But when he finds her, he discovers that the girl who was once called “The Flower of Reunification” has been much changed by life circumstance, political imprisonment and life tragedies.

The film’s intention is unclear, probably because the journey García took with Lim Su-kyung was so muddied. While most documentaries are crafted with a story designed to convey the filmmaker’s point, The Girl from the South’s argument actually comes from its lack of thesis. Instead, the film is a back and forth meandering journey with a subject that is weary and battle worn, and clearly lives a life of self-protection.

In a way, the examination of Lim Su-kyung’s resistance to speaking with García and his translators is the most unsettling evidence of the control South Korea has over its citizens. When contrasted with the emotional and passionate footage of Su-kyung as a young woman, it is easy to see that the effects of a police state are devastating. Even more devastating, however, is the effect García’s hero worship has on both Su-kyung and the film.

Is The Girl from the South Essential TIFF Viewing?

Certainly this is an interesting film, but not a perfect one (although few are). If you are interested in the conflict between North and South Korea and would like to see firsthand the effects the governmental policies has on its citizens, then this is definitely essential TIFF viewing.

The Girl from the South Screening Times

  •  Saturday, September 8 at Jackman Hall (AGO) at 7:00 PM,
  • Monday, September 10 at Jackman Hall (AGO) at 10:30 AM, and
  • Saturday, September 15 at Scotiabank 4 at 4:00 PM

More About This Movie

The Girl from the South Production Gallery