Saturday, December 1, 2007

Commentary | "Sai-I-Gu: From Korean Women's Perspectives" (1993)

I grew up in an area of Los Angeles that has a large Korean population and many of my friends’ families were directly affected by the L.A. riots. Most of the stories I’d heard were about brothers and fathers who had fought to defend their stores and property, and were either put on trial for assault or severely injured in the process. What struck me about the video Sa-I-Gu was that its use of women as narrators worked especially well to counter the many restrictive media images that portrayed Korean-Americans as suspicious and gun-wielding. By opening up a dialogue for Korean women to speak out about the riots, we come to better understand how it affected their families beyond material loss, and what meaning they were able to extract from it in the aftermath.

As these women tell their stories, we as an audience can easily see how their initiation into the American racial hierarchy dismantles their notion of America as mi gook, the beautiful country. The strength of Sa-I-Gu is its ability to critique the very nature of the way America operates, and why an incident like the L.A. riots did not erupt merely by chance. As one woman summed it up, “Something is drastically wrong.” I don’t think the filmmakers intended to implicitly blame white America, but rather attempted to show us why assigning blame to either the Korean or African-American communities is faulty without considering how they became so polarized in the first place. Sa-I-Gu was both educational and a testament to peace and community rebuilding.

Company Credits (via
Production Company / Independent (Dir. Christine Choy)
Distributors / Unknown

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