a punk-rock road movie following the last generation of traveling kaksori street performers as they tour the rapidly changing South Korean countryside.
Kaksori (“singing beggar”) is a popular folk tradition that has seen little documentation and now is in danger of dying out. Our film explores kaksori as a form of social critique and uses the performers’ stories as a key to explore the social reality of South Korea’s turbulent economic rise.
We will be following several Kaksori performers to investigate why they’ve chosen this path, so far from typical routes to success. What motivated their choice, and how do they now sustain their lives on the road? Their nomadic lifestyle is joyous but exhausting and fraught with challenges. Camaraderie is tested as some performers compete for fame. Local authorities are a common threat, as the kaksoris often can’t get permits, and sometimes are forced to shut down mid-show.
For the time being though, kaksoris speak to the struggles of everyday people of the Korean countryside, and are cherished by the older generation.
Help us film Kaksori! this Summer/Fall...
We will begin filming August 1st in the rural areas of South Korea, following the personal journeys of these traveling performers. The fund will be used for travel expenses, to rent and purchase equipment, and to local crew while filming in South Korea. Your contribution will jumpstart our film!
Shirley Kim-Ryu is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles and Seoul. A descendant of a North Korean refugee, Shirley moved to the US alone at the age of 15. Her years as a nomadic teen generated a deep well of stories and creative inspiration. Graduating from UCLA with an MFA in Film Directing, Shirley has received grants awards from the James Bridges Foundation, the Hollywood Foreign Press , Panavision Film Grant, and the Mary Pickford Foundation. Her short films have screened in film festivals internationally.
Eben Portnoy (UCLA MFA ’14) is a filmmaker and musician based in Los Angeles and Massachusetts. Raised on an organic vegetable farm by a biologist and a photographer, his film work encourages audiences to re-engage with common environmental and cultural ecologies in an era of dislocation and distraction. Eben's projects have found support from the Sloan Science Foundation, the Mary Pickford Foundation, and Google Creative Collective. His music videos have premiered on OZY, Vice’s Creator Project, and Stereogum.
Gwendolyn Kim has been involved in filmmaking since 2010, while working as a freelance illustrator. Bilingual and specializing in US-Korean co-produced films, Gwendolyn produced the short film “All Men are Flowers” in 2013, which was screened in many festivals across the US and awarded with “The Best Short Film” at 2016 Korean American FIlm Festival of New York. Gwendolyn’s background in artmaking has made her a versatile and integral member of each film she produces. This year, Gwendolyn will travel in the rural areas of South Korea to help bring the stories of Kaksoris to the global audience.
Risks and challenges
We are flying out to South Korea in two weeks (!) to begin filming before our Kickstarter campaign finishes in order to capture the performers during the peak performing season. By the time this Kickstarter thing finishes, we'll already be shooting.
Sounds a little crazy? Probably. But, smitten with our performers and believing that audiences outside of Korea will be too, we're jumping in. Your contributions will allow us to get this film started, and will help us follow the performers long enough to tell a rich, dynamic story.
After shooting, we'll begin the long process of editing, sound mixing, and finishing the film for festivals and distribution... and more fundraising to make all that happen too. Making a documentary film is a huge endeavor that takes time and patience, but a subject you love always sustains you through difficult times. We hope to share the process with you as we go, until we can finally deliver the best kaksori road-movie possible!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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