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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Forgotten Childhoods of Korea: Ounie Lecomte's "A Brand New Life" (2009) and So Yong Kim's "Treeless Mountain" (2009)


This article analyzes two films from 2009 that are not only striking in their use of children as protagonists but also noteworthy in returning to the once-popular subject of abandoned children: So Yong Kim’s Treeless Mountain and Ounie Lecomte’s A Brand New Life. The significance of these two works lies in their similar narratives of abandonment and journeying but also in the comparable backgrounds of the filmmakers as Westerners with Korean origins. Both filmmakers left Korea as children. Both films were created as mementos of the filmmakers’ Korean roots and childhoods in Korea. This article’s analysis of the films is twofold. First, a textual reading reveals child perspectives and their matching visuals as playing crucial roles in understating—or even concealing—the gravity of the issues of abandonment and adoption embodied in the narratives. Second, the author discusses the “accented context” of the films and their filmmakers, borrowing from Hamid Naficy’s theory of “accented cinema” (2001). The geographic and thematic return to Korea and the Korean family by these Western-Korean filmmakers brings forth questions beyond the narratives, of what constitutes a Korean film and a Korean experience. Keywords: Korean film, Korean cinema, diaspora, accented cinema, Ounie Lecomte, So Yong Kim, children, abandonment, adoption

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