Wednesday, November 05, 2008


(Deface Trailer)

Directed by John Arlotto, USA, 2006, 20 minutes

Deface is the story of Sooyoung, a factory worker in a small town in North Korea. He devotedly follows the rules of the government and attends the union party formed by the government faithfully. There are large propaganda posters with assuring slogans in the town, and one of them has a drawing of two smiling children saying "We are happy." Sooyoung has a loving daughter, but she dies of starvation because the government would not give provisions to the workers as they promised. Her death changes his life completely. After burying his daughter, Sooyoung sees the posters with the chubby and smiling children. Outraged by the reality of his country, Sooyoung refuses to be a loyal worker and starts to deface the propaganda posters in the town, hoping other people see them and feel the need of change. He risks his life to erase the billboards and repaints the slogans with the messages that reflect the reality of North Korea, such as "We are dying of hunger." Sooyoung manages not to be caught by Anti-Graffiti patrol which is newly formed because of his doings. However, he sees his acts lead to the death of innocent people in his town and starts to rethink his rebellion.

When I searched the Internet and found out about Deface, I was surprised to see an American director having interest in North Korea and made a film about North Korea. The director John Arlotto in his interview says that he actually saw a video tape that shows graffiti against the propaganda of North Korean government and that that video inspired him to shoot Deface. Even though I was only able to see the trailer of the movie, I could see that Deface outspokenly shows the situation of North Korea. I was aware of the fact that the North Korean environment is very much different from my country, South Korea, but it was shocking to see contemporary North Korea filmed by a foreign director. Since South and North Korea were actually one country from the same root but divided by the political ideology, it is not easy for people in South Korea to make a film that candidly shows the reality of North Korea. There is also political and diplomatic problems involved. Recently, the relationship between South and North Korea has become vulnerable; therefore South Koreans cannot help but be careful when they depict North Korea. I was even more surprised to know that Deface got nine awards from film festivals such as the Austin Film Festival in 2007.

Not considering the fact that Deface is a film that describes contemporary North Korean situation, it is still enough to evoke sympathy from the audience since it shows a father losing his daughter because of his government. I believe that all parents have the same affection for their children and desperation of Sooyoung adds sincerity to the film.

In addition to that, it is interesting that the film was shot in a Korean Town in Los Angeles. Even though the location is a city in the United States, it is really amazing that the town in the film looks like a city in Korea. Also according to newspaper articles that I read, the actors in the movies have lived in the USA for a long time, and their Korean, especially the North Korean dialect, was not that good as a native Korean. However, even though I am a Korean, I could not feel a difference while watching the film; therefore even more thankful to the actors for practicing hard to speak Korean as perfect as they can.


Stella said...

Is this movie really made in the USA? I can't believe it! It looks so like Korea. And I think the actors' Korean is nice, too.

joe said...

Pretty good, I'm interested in this topic.

Kensin Boku said...

This Movie is deeply moving.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm really impressed.
Cuz, this film looks real and
really surprised that North Korean
still suffering from starvation.
I hope they can have freedom in near future and it's very interesting article.

Anonymous said...

It describes sentiment of North Korean's very well. It is hard to believe that the director is foreigner. It touch me. I really want to see the moive someday.

Anonymous said...

is director ameriacn isn't it?
it's amazing!!!!
i felt sometihing...touching

Su said...

This movie treated impressively a question of humanright in contemporary NorthKorea society.

so good

Rian said...

It is really extraordinary that an american chose to shoot a film about far east country. North Korea is still pursuing communism, and it would have been very exotic, or gone against what USA follows. However, I wonder if the director would have fully understood about North Korea and the people's hearts....

Jooboo said...

Before I write, I was very surprised when I heard and saw Korea in the film!! kekeke .

However, I knew that the situation of NorthKorea is not happy. Arirang is a very sad, sad song..

Kind of interesting that that the director is American!! This is really moving film.. I wanna see it too, if I can...T^T

sura said...

It may really affect the emotions of the people watching the movie. I am really curious about the movie since I also would like to know about the North Korean environment!

Anonymous said...

This film is really touchable.
I was surprised that this film is directed by a american director.

julie said...

It's not easy to be a starter.
The starter may have to endure unexpected results like innocent people's sacrifice.
But I believe Korea will grow and go hopeful direction through our support and pain.

Anonymous said...

A film about N.Korea made by U.S.A?
It's very impressive! I'd like to watch full version.

soo said...

well, I completely agree that many South Koreans don't know much about current North Korea. I cannot judge the film when I haven't wathed it, but I'm worried if the film perverse the reality of North Korea by making the story dramatically.

Joseph said...

If you'd like to watch the complete short film, go to
As a Korean American actor, I found this project deeply moving. As you can see, the message is universal. If you have an opportunity to see it, let me know what you think.

Joseph Steven Yang

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that American director can describe the situation of North Korea well. AS you said, the directors in South Korea cannot reveal the fact of North Korea.

bb said...

it is really interesting to see the movie about North korea directed by American, and filmed at L.A. Despite of its profound topic and view, I think there must be some limits to describe North korea in many way. If anyone interested in North korea more, I recommend korean movie "Crossing" released 2007. but it is not a short film ^^::.

Soojin said...

When i saw the trailer first, my first impression was that it's surprising to make this kind of film made by American. Yet, it reminds me of an anticommunist movement of Korea in the past. For me, it's more like producing a certain politic purpose rather than letting people know about inhumanity situation of North Korea.

Narae said...

Filmed in the Korean town in LA... amazing. It doesn't look like a city in the States at all! The staffs must have done a lot of work.

Anonymous said...

Just as the gods used WWII to justify an influx of new technologies so will they use the impending pestilence which kills over half the world's population to justify historical medical advances, including the "cure of aging", initiating the "1000 years with Jesus on Earth".
We've seen this tactic used recently with AIDS, targetted at homosexuals and blacks in Africa.
Then, as promised, The End will come with fire::::Global tectonic subduction.

There was a very real perception that bi-racial was much worse for the white than it was for the person of color. The liberal culture, which was designed and promoted with the god's tools to achieve their Apocalyptic goals, screamed racism when there was a very reasonable explanation for this reality::::
In this white punishment known as the United States the person of color has already adopted the disfavors/temptations intended for another race. But by associating/mating with a person of color the white is newly adopting the disfavors of another culture.
And this is the reason why people of color are not welcome in the United States. The gods control everything:::The perception they want to create, the thoughts they want you to have.
People of color can't recover from absorbing the temptations from two cultures. And why they become more and more like so many blacks in America:::Veterans at absorbing the temptations of two cultures.
To further illustrate this is why California's educational system/funding was ranked #1 when California was white:::Education being the basis of the affluent economic system. Now even public higher education has become unaffordable.

Don't forget the lessons the 'ole white preacher taught:::Dancing is a sin, spare the rod spoil the child.
The gods used the liberal tool to ridicule away so many taboos, paving the way for the decay of society and ultimately the End Times::::::
Black behavior was controlled by the KKK. Men's behavior was controlled by marriage for thousands of years.
When married by 15 men never gained the taste of promiscuity. Once the gods used the budding liberalism tool the men set the tone for the deteriorating enviornment centered around their gross disfavor.
Women's relinquishing control of pre-arranged marriage will be what costs mankind everything in The End. It's all their fault. Men are pigs, essentially just primally responsive disfavored beings who if given the freedom will abuse based on the impulses the god's push them into. Whereas under pre-arranged marriage this behavior was contained now the promiscuous fraternity house epitomizes the pinnicle of what a "real man" should be like. And sadly the women fall into line.

The gods kill 27/18 elementary school students in shooting in Conneticut.
They are disturbed. They are ufit to sit on this throne. But you all knew that from my life.
"We have a good reason." And if you didn't you'd manufacture one, like you did to prepare me.
Look how wicked the gods are. Die monsters.
You do good work. Kudos on another productive day.
Dirt. Filth. Inferior. Step aside.
Then they share they are talking about me being capable to do something like this when they did just did four hours ago. Filth. Hypocrite. Sick monsters. Shit.
Imagine the pathology which can dissociate from their behavior like this.

"They deserved it." I don't care if it is Hitler.
You put those involved with Prohibition into the Holocaust, disturbingly unjust. You cost me my tooth for a piece of bacon.
You have no credibility. Don't come back.
If you want to waste your time you can investigate what the god's positioned reason is, because they always create one to provide an excuse for the execution of their strategy.
If you knew how sinister you would be afraid. They are more Satan than god.
god was never on your side.