"In the Absence" Snags Audience Choice Award for Doc Shorts at Indy Shorts
In the Absence is a riveting, mind-boggling 29-minute documentary from filmmaker Yi Seung-Jun that documents the story of the 2014 singing of the MV Sewol off the coast of South Korea that claimed the lives of over 300 people with the vast majority of the fatalities being children.
The sinking of the MV Sewol was one of the most impactful of recent events in South Korea, not just because of the immense loss of life but because of the overwhelming impact the tragedy had on Korea's national leadership. There's almost no question that the sheer incompetence shown by those responding to the tragedy contributed to the eventual impeachment of former South Korean President Park Geun-Hye.
Throughout the film's 29-minute running time, Yi Seung-Jun drives home the massive incompetence through the utilization of actual recordings, SMS text messages, and videos discovered in the students' mobile phones. The absolutely stunning lack of urgency and lack of responsiveness is astounding, responses often more concerned with getting a live video feed than urgently implementing for the tilting and soon to sink ferry. There's a naive arrogance throughout the recordings, semi-bravado yet grounded on complete ignorance. It's abundantly clear within the short span of a 29-minute short that countless lives could have been and should have been saved.
In the Absence is a difficult film to watch because it highlights so vividly the tragic impact of poor judgment, human error, and outright neglect of duty that cost hundreds of lives and left countless families and survivors demanding justice from national authorities that they've yet to receive. The film is beautifully yet hauntingly photographed and undeniably disturbing for anyone who has anything resembling feelings. In fact, it may very well be our own emotional responses that make the film so impactful - it's a stark contrast to those national leaders who so stoically failed to respond and whose inaction made the tragedy even worse.
In the Absence captured the Audience Choice Award for documentary during the 2019 Indy Shorts International Film Festival.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic