South Korea, 2013, 93 minutes
Chronicling a history of violence and death from society’s lower depths to its corridors of power, Jung Yoon-suk’s gripping documentary is a quietly devastating indictment of pervasive injustice nested within the post–military dictatorship economic breakout of South Korea in the 1990s.
The film begins by recounting the case of the “Jijon Clan” (“Supreme Gangsters”), a group of youths from a backwoods province arrested in 1994 for committing a series of horrific murders, enacting a savage and warped form of class warfare in the face of growing social inequity. Jung provocatively compares and contrasts their case with two other notorious episodes of the era—the 1994 Seongsu Bridge disaster and the death of 502 people in the Sampoong Department Store collapse of 1995.
Resisting the temptation to sensationalize, this cool and methodical cinematic essay uses these ostensibly unrelated incidents to demonstrate that the punishments did not fit the crimes, and also to draw a series of uncomfortable conclusions about South Korean society.
These two screenings of Non-fiction Diary are part of the Spotlight on Documentary section of the 52nd New York Film Festival which runs September 26 – October 12, 2014.