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One of the most important subjects that have been dealt with through Indie movies in the last 10 years has centered on ‘youths.’ However, rather than ‘youths’ being filled with hope, the youths in Korean indie films are portrayed as wretched beings suffering with depression, worried sick about their uncertain future. Simply put, they are of the “880,000 won generation.” First termed in the book <880,000 won Generation> by economist Woo Seok-hoon, this generation refers to the present-day youths in their 20s who are exploited by older generations for low-paid, temporary labor. The 880,000 won generation in Korea cries out in despair for an escape.

Such is the story of Soo-yeon (Cha Soo-yeon), the protagonist in the film Nowhere to Turn. Although she is a university graduate, she has no dreams or hopes. She wants to enroll in a music school in Liverpool, UK, but all she is capable of doing is begging her parents to send her there, and selling her household items in flea markets to gather up the funds to get herself to Liverpool. Then she decides to leave home, and stay with her friend Dong-ho (Yoo Ha-joon), who has recently been released from military service and is re-entering school. Dong-ho is also of 88o,ooo won generation. He lives in a rooftop house, the cheapest, most inadequate housing type in Korea, maintaining himself with instant noodles. Together, Soo-yeon and Dong-ho form a band and start practicing, dreaming of winning in an Indie Music Festival. Soo-yeon, who has a much more ambitious dream than winning in an Indie Music Festival, is devastated when such seemingly easy proves to be unattainable

It is frustrating to observe Soo-yeon, a typical characteristic of 880,000 won generation.  She doesn’t strive to accomplish anything.  Although equipped with talent, she has no big plans on utilizing it. In other typical films about youths, Soo-yeon would win the festival after much meandering and leave for Liverpool to fulfill her dreams.



However, in Nowhere to Turn, the emerging director Lee Seung-yeon doesn’t allow Soo-yeon to even dream.  This is a point that differentiates this film from Take Care of my Cat, the most acclaimed youth film that appeared in the Korean film scene 10 years ago. At least the characters in Take Care of my Cat embark on a plane and take off for Australia in the last scene. Youths 10 years ago, at least had dreams. They at least had the aspiration and ambition to get a working holiday visa in an unfamiliar place and restart their lives. Nowhere to Turn also concludes in an airport in the last scene. However, the director inhibits the main characters to get on the plane, and the film ends with a scene that captures Soo-yeon and Dong-ho in an airport waiting lounge, wasting time. After all, they do find soul mates in each other; however, they don’t arrive at any financial solutions. Nowhere to Turn openly portrays the conviction that there is no perfect hope for the youths in their 20s in present-day Korea. For an audience who is not in their twenties, the lethargic youths in the film undoubtedly trigger frustration. About this frustration, Lee commented that: “Election votes most clearly illustrate the lethargic state of the twenties in Korea. They can gain something from older generations if they partake in collective actions. However, it seems that they’ve fallen into a lethargic state, feeling helpless about everything. The emptiness that the 30s group today felt 10 years ago was emptiness of being young as portrayed in Wong Kar-wai’s films. However, the emptiness that today’s 20s group feels, is more real and alive. It’s the kind of lethargy that is derived from the hopelessness of believing that nothing ever comes to fruition regardless of their effort.” Even for an audience who might not sympathize with the characters of Nowhere to Turn, it’s clearly able to assume that this simple indie movie is a painful documentation of today’s youths.




Nowhere to Turn
was produced with a mere budget of 100 million won; yet its technical perfection is outstanding compared with other indie films released in the last few years. With generous non-paid involvement of the lighting director Koh Nak-sun, many of the scenes were refined and styled, even to the point of being comparable to commercial films. Koh Nak-sun was the lighting director who filmed The President’s Last Bang by Lim Sang-soo. The cast of the film were also outstanding. Particularly, Cha Soo-yeon who played Soo-yeon showed her nuance-filled acting as seen in her 2007 film For Eternal Hearts. In addition, the original sound track of the movie is a rarity in Korea. Having been a member of the legendary Korean rock group You and Me Blue in 1994 and now working in the film music group ‘Boksoong Art Project”, musical director Bang June-seok conducted the original sound track for the film. He also appeared in the movie itself, as the musician who studied abroad and lures Soo-yeon into temptation.


Kim do-hoon_  <Cine21> Reporter

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