by Mara Norman
Cinema Adrift: The blend of humor and music seems rare, how important was humor of your own music?
Kwon Yong-man: When we first got together our goal was more about having fun and making fun of people we wanted to make fun of rather than having some sort of musical goal. But then we realized we needed to do something more than that so we tried to make some music with these sorts of things.
CA: How has the film been doing internationally?
Jung Yoon-suk: So we had the world premiere at the Rotterdam Film Festival and I would say that the audience response was very positive. We ranked I think third in the audience response and the discrepancy between the number one film Moonlight was not a lot. I think it was 4.6 out of 5 for Moonlight and then it was 4.5 for us. I feel that a lot of punk rock and hardcore fans came and gave us good responses. That was another factor. I am curious to see how it’s received here in the Western world. Also the film is going to Taipei. I’m interested in the audience reaction there because both of our countries are going through similar political turmoil.
CA: Apart from the subject of North/South relations, is there anything else particularly taboo to discuss in Korea?
Jung: I would say the band deals with themes other than North Korea. There’s a lot of things going on in Korean society regarding Christianity, the military culture. Basically things that have to do with authoritarianism and the contradictions that happen within it. I will say except for North Korea you can say things about other themes. Maybe people will criticize you but they won’t arrest you for it. Talking about North Korea is one of the things where if you have a slip of the tongue you can get arrested. There’s a slight difference.
CA: How far into making the film were you when the band’s producer Park Jung-geun got arrested?
Jung Yoon-suk: We were very much into the filming of this and the Pirates were actually touring in Japan so I was with them at the time of January 2012 so we found out about his arrest while we were in Japan.
CA: What is the size of the hardcore scene in Korea?
Bamseom Pirates: If you want idea of what the Korean punk scene looks like you can watch a film called No Money No Future. Basically it states that the punk scene in Korea is very small but does have a pretty long history for twenty years. I would say as a band we are a little bit musically apart from that scene and we don’t have influence on popular music as a whole. For our influences we grew up listening to a lot of American punk music so that was our initial influences. But then as we started making more and more music I think style-wise we’ve also been influenced by a lot of Japanese punk style.
CA: I’m sure just playing it you eventually just settle into your own thing.
CA: When did you decide to turn all of this into a documentary?
Jung Yoon-suk: The way it happened was that I didn’t know them at all but six or seven years ago I approached them and told them that I wanted to start filming them. Why they accepted I will never know. I didn’t have any knowledge of punk at the time.
Kwon: If I said no to the director then he would have gone home really sad so that’s why I said yes.
Jung Yoon-suk: I didn’t know much about music but I really liked their music. Some people who are involved in the punk music scene try to label their work as performance art and that they hold this sort of professional stance. But for me I feel like I approached them with a more artistic sort of sense. I feel that their music had an all-encompassing quality and that’s what connected me to their music to want to start filming.
Jung: (cont.) I’m stuttering right now because I’m so embarrassed to say this but the reason I worked with them was because I felt they were really good artists. And the way they make their music is they really play with their music and they do it in a joking way. I thought that was really cool and poetic at the same time. And Kwon is actually a poet as well. With all the trials going on with the national security laws and going into the testimonies had a significance as well. I feel good art has an essentially prophetic quality and because of that it yielded good results. I felt that the moment I first heard their music. As a director it was my duty to translate their music into a film.
CA: Do you mostly do documentaries?
Jung: I’m working not only as a documentary filmmaker but a contemporary artist. Right now my exhibit will come first and then I will possibly start working on another film. One film I would like to work on will probably be about the Vietnam War. I want that to be the third installment in a trilogy I’m working on which I call the “Nation State Trilogy.”
CA: Thank you, I look forward to it.
Special Thanks: Emma Griffiths for coordinating the interview.