Edited by Hwang Hong Su
Translated by Kim Hoyeun
Herstory tells the real-life story of the legal battle against the Japanese government regarding the former comfort women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II. Min Kyu Dong, a director of All About My Wife, has directed the film, and actor Kim Hee Ae played the main character who boldly fought against the Japanese government along with the former comfort women, grabbing much attention.
However, Herstory only attracted about 330,000 viewers, even with its high quality, actors’ enthusiastic performances, and heartfelt messages. Still, it is constantly loved amid the support and attention of many people who love the film. Why is the film, which was released two years ago, continuously loved and remembered? Based on the behind-the-scenes of Herstory, we can narrow it down to three reasons.
- A Story that Director Min Kyu Dong Himself Wanted to Tell His Daughter
Director Min Kyu Dong said in various interviews that Herstory is a movie that contains the story, which he wanted to tell his daughter. He added that after learning about the comfort women, his daughter started publishing a novel based on them, but someone commented, “I wish you studied more before writing this.” Director Min said that as he saw this situation, he “vowed to produce a film that would be meaningful” for his daughter.
The title also includes director Min’s will. He used the word “herstory” to apply that this is the history written by the former comfort women themselves. He also added that he wanted to present the courage of these grandmothers and the solidarity and the empathy of those who helped them. Director Min’s Herstory, which reflects his true feelings, came as a warm and heartfelt film.
- The Sincere Acting Performed by the Actors
The combined career of the actors in Herstory is more than 200 years. The prominent actors, including Kim Hee Ae, Kim Hae Sook, Ye Soo Jung, Moon Sook, Lee Yong Nyeo, and Kim Sun Young, present the perfect ensemble. Also, those who played the former comfort women allowed tears and laughter in every scene.
Their acting careers are not the only thing that stands out. The actors’ efforts for the message in the film cannot be missed. First, Kim Hee As, who played the role of Moon Jung Sook, is said to have practiced Busan dialect and Japanese for three months even before the official filming. She stated that this was not only to perform the exact character but also to make the movie seem more realistic for the audience without causing any harm to the real people. Thanks to these efforts, Kim Moon Sook, the chairman of Busan Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, who actually led the trial, got on stage after the premiere and thanked the actors.
Lee Seol, who played Moon Jung Sook’s daughter, Hye Soo, registered as a free speaker in the weekly demonstrations to better perform the scene of weekly demonstrations. In addition, many actors, including Han Ji Min, Lee Yoo Young, Jung In Ki and Park Jung Ja, have decided to make special appearances to add the sincerity into the movie.
- Thorough Historical Research Combined with Meaningful and Heart-Felt Trial Scenes
The most crucial part of the production was the question of how to add meanings to the film while making the trial scenes seem as real as possible. So the production team composed the scene after learning all the official trial records and interviews. Not only did they filmize the actual events that occurred during the trial, they enlivened the story by adding the episodes that the grandmothers actually faced before entering the court.
After perfectly recreating the trial scenes, the rest was up to the actors. They recreated the sad situation and the anger with their sincere acting on the set. After filming the scene of Bae Jung Gil’s (Kim Hae Sook) testimony, holding back the overwhelming emotions, she got so absorbed in her role to the point that she couldn’t stop crying for some time. The production team’s meticulous research to not miss a single detail from the actual trial combined with the actors’ determinations to capture the real victims’ pain, the movie was able to convey the heart-felt messages to the audience. I believe that these efforts are why Herstory is still remembered two years after its release.