The Women's News and 4th Women Film Festival Committee has been selecting recipients every year for The Women's News Award, given to deserving individuals or groups that have put feminism into practice through film. This year, the award went to director Park Ok Soon, head of the filmmaking group 'Sodong' that produced <From Winter to Winter.>
<From Winter to Winter> documents the nine-month-long struggle of golf game assistants working in Hansung Country Club, from the founding of their union to their strike, dismissal, and struggle for reinstatement, portraying accurately the reality faced by these women, categorized as special employment jobs. Commonly known as caddies, these golf game assistants formed a union in order to protect themselves against the company's sexual and verbal harassment and unilateral dismissals, and against accidents that happen on the field.
However, the company and the existing union (dominated by men) continued to sneer at and humiliate the women. At this, the women had to prepare for another battle, this time against the union itself. During the Women Film Festival, the women themselves made an appearance after the screening of <From Winter to Winter> to hold a discussion with the audience on the reality faced by women in casual employment.
- Congratulations. How do you feel about receiving the award?
The ladies at Hansung Country Club will be in tears when they hear of this. While making the film, I got to know a lot of people who are left out of society, and through them, learnt about a whole new world. I'm thankful for that. It pains me to think that while I'm here receiving this award, the heroines of my film are still fighting for their jobs. I want my film would give them strength, but I still wonder how much of a help it'll be… Anyway, I should treat the ladies to a hearty meal.
- How did the group 'Sodong' come about?
I met someone at the Video Production School run by Hankyoreh Culture Center, and we agreed to set up 'Sodong' in December 2000. <From Winter to Winter> is our first film. 'Sodong' has a number of meanings. I think of it as 'making a fuss,' while my partner thinks of it as 'small movements.'
- Why did you choose to document the lives of the women working in Hansung Country Club?
I wasn't interested in them from the beginning. I heard about them from a friend and searched the Internet and newspapers to gather information about them. Then one day, I read an article on the Internet about a sit-in strike that they were holding. So I contacted them. I met them, talked to them, read their petitions, and read the survey reports by the Korean Women's Trade Unions, and that's when I started filming.
- In documentaries, the relationship between the director and the subject of the film is important, especially if you're in the media movement. How was it in your case?
At first I didn't know what to do. I couldn't just waltz in as an outsider and starting shooting. So I had to start not with a camera but by spending time becoming close to them, having fun with them and drinking all night with them. I joined them in the sit-in strike, sat with them through their meetings… My camera got smashed in the process, but I became more and more attached to these people. I realized that they were not just the subjects of my film. I wanted to do it for them, to record their activities. Even now I talk to them everyday on the phone.
- What was your biggest concern while making the film?
Whether I could really talk to people through this film, whether it would succeed in revealing my intentions, whether I could accurately express the hardship and suffering of the women…
For three months after the shooting, my mind was in a tangle. Should I go through with this or not? The first 30 minutes of my film is shot by the women themselves. They filmed the period from the founding of the union to its progress from their own perspective, and then I took it up from there to film the negotiation process and the struggle against the existing union. It wasn't my intention in the beginning to make the footages into a film. All I wanted to do was carry on where the women had left off, producing a documentation of trade union history.
But then terrible things began to happen and the ladies went through a great deal of suffering. We had to make known their painful reality, how women's issues were handled within the labor union, and how the management in turn made use of this. So I rushed to edit the footage and signed the film in for the Labor Film Festival. As the title indicates, the situation is still winter. By screening the film, I wanted to give my friends a chance to speak out. Not my story but their own story from their own lips. I want to publicize their cause and in this way give them strength.
- You said that you wish to be identified as a documentary activist. How much of this activism relates to women's issues?
Frankly I haven't really thought deeply about women's issues until now. Even as I started working on this film, I regarded it as a working class issue, not a feminist one. But when you think about why the caddies are so oppressed, you'll arrive at the conclusion that it's because they are women and irregular workers. So it all boils down to discrimination against women.
The films I saw at the Women Film Festival made me realize how fresh and sharp women directors' perspectives can be. I want to make such films, too. Films that expose the oppression suffered by women with wit and realism. Many women mistakenly believe that they are oppressed not because they are women but because they are incompetent. In this regard, I wish that the Women Film Festival will become known to more people. And I will take this opportunity to think more deeply about women issues.