OLIVIA SATHER: You're listening to Beyond the Stage from the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. In each episode, we introduce you to the artists, scholars, students, and arts professionals interpreting our world through the arts. Join us this week and every week this summer as we explore their stories. Let’s get started.
Okay. Hello everyone. And today I am here with Seung-hoon Jeong an Assistant Professor in the Film and Electronic Arts Department focused in critical studies and international cinema at California State University Long Beach. He is a professor and a film critic from South Korea, and he joined CSULB after working as an assistant professor at New York University Abu Dhabi. And has held visiting professorships at Columbia University and several Korean universities. He has worked on film theory and critical issues through diverse films, and focuses on global cinema related to multiculturalism, abjection, catastrophe and networking with bio-political, ethical and psychoanalytic philosophies. Jeong has received Korea's Cine2021 Film Criticism Award in 2003 and the Society for Cinema and Media Studies Dissertation Award and his writing Global Cinema: a bio-political and ethical reframing, due out sometime in 2021. I'd like to welcome Professor Jeong here with us today. Welcome.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Thank you so much for inviting me. I am happy to be with you. This is a new kind of adventure which I should be able to enjoy.
OLIVIA SATHER: Thank you, I’m so glad to hear that. It does look beautiful there, the sunlight looks nice. I’m so, first I want to start, how are you today, are you doing well and you're here you've made it here to the states with us, you’re a new professor at CSU. You just joined us this this semester, is that correct?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yes, exactly. So today I’m very fine, I think I’m a little…affected by the weather. And today's very sunny and you know I’m always happy under this California sun and I’ve been here for three months. I came here in January, so far everything's online, but then I’m very glad to meet everybody who’s so nice and friendly online, so I really look forward to meeting them in person in the future.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, absolutely. I think we're all looking forward to finally being together in person soon hopefully. So I want to start with a little bit about your background. Can you tell us how you got started in film and studying film and film criticism.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yes, there may be a long story, but then briefly, I think that. In my childhood, I became kind of … though I didn't have any idea about the kind of thing it just like you know to watch films on TV, especially because, when I was a young, that…was that always available but whenever there's a chance, I went there, I mean even by myself. But then TV was, at that point, I mean it was almost the only cultural platform for me to explore the outside of my small like family, you know, a neighborhood and and a nation, and so I suppose, so what I got from a lot of films that I’ve seen, for example, even on the channel called AFKN which is American Forces Korean network, so that was for the you know US military people based in Korea, but then there was available on TV too. So whenever I was tired of, you know, studying and whatever, I just went when you know out to the living room even in the dark when my parents were sleeping, for another TV and then sometimes AFK showed a lot of movies. Mostly American, but then other international too, and of course, at the time I didn't know you know the way films is made, or what…the director, or whatever. But then a few films, I still remember, I have seen then, around that time still lingering my mind, for example, I recently …a French film, a very famous one made by… one of the most important filmmakers in 1960, then it was remade in Hollywood. The Hollywood version is, as you might guess it's much more secular and then much more conventional. At the same time it starred Richard Gere who was kind of a rising star at the moment. And then, this is a film about a couple, who are in a kind of romantic…they fall in love with each other, but then they’re in some sense outlaws, though, so that you know they are pursued by the police, they have to go away from the society and a certain point, it does kind of bad luck and then the main character, played by Richard Gere in this Hollywood version of Breathless, surrounded by the police and then he is now like a you know kind of about to be arrested, and then at the moment the ending shows his kind of dance movement, just in the middle of the streets, you know people all the police are surrounding you and then you are just in the middle of the crowd there and then he, you know, started to dance very briefly, it's very subtle, but then it was so impressive to me I don't know why, but they just captured me and he's he's buttocks were so sexy so I think, in the end, Richard Gere’s buttocks drew me to film.
OLIVIA SATHER: I love it. I haven't seen that film, but now I want to watch it.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: I recommend it. It's available online.
OLIVIA SATHER: You know it's funny, I…So my dad was actually in the military, so I grew up on AFN. Yes, yeah well my dad was stationed in Europe, so I grew up on the European version of Armed Forces Network, but yes and it's funny because they don't play commercials so it's just kind of like infomercials. And those I really remember for some reason. Okay yeah.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Exactly. That was quite useful, I mean retroactively remembering that it was a channel that in some sense kind of say collects a series of the most interesting American TV dramas and shows and films.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yes. Kind of a wide variety of things.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: It is the total, you know present, gift, package.
OLIVIA SATHER: So then, after you know you develop this love of cinema as a as a child, as a kid, then what made you want to study in school and then go on to be a professor and a critic?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yes, so actually, even though I like films, just as an amateur fan I got into literature a lot and actually I studied French literature. In my college for my BA and even MA, and I even you know got into the PhD program for the same department of French literature and I was very much interested in French literary theory and criticism, rather than just poems or you know novels and and was related to my original inclination and then great interest in philosophy. Anyway, there was a lot of overlap between literary criticism, and the only other philosophy, so that was my rundown, but at the same time, you know, I always you know enjoyed films and sometimes wanted to write about them, and so on and so forth, and then they'll were like a kind of online platforms emerging at the period when I got into writing about the literature and then film. So I was you know some of your reviews and something like that, and in the end, I had a chance to receive an award from a film criticism award in Korea and then it in some sense gave me the chance to become a film critic. So I worked as a film critic for one year, also for that magazine that initiated that award ceremony. And it was very exciting, but at the same time, quite exhausting too, because a to watch, you know new films that were released just the last weekend, and I have to write to something about that this Monday and then it's published the next Monday and something like that. So the cycle, was a very, very short, while I was still in my school for my PhD program. So at a certain point, I had to make a decision between you know, going back to school or going further in this film journalism as like a film critic. That that this lateral choice was not kind of a feasible in many aspects, because you know the market was still small and then, you know, it's quite frustrating and there's no kind of real job security, or whatever as you may guess. And then I thought that I would need more kind of substantial training in terms of film criticism and knowledge, because that was not my major in my university. So I ended up deciding to study is cinema more systematically, that's why I, you know came to study for my PhD. So in the United States, I did my PhD in both film studies and comparative literature because I had a big literary background, but in the end, that you know the film was my choice.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah. How would you say that the study of literature and comparative literature and French philosophy really has played a role in like the way you critique film, or does it play a role? I said earlier that you know when I was reading your bio that you study, or you look at film theory and criticism through multiculturalism, objection, networking with bio-political ethical and psychoanalytic philosophies, I feel like, you’re taking kind of what you've done over here with French philosophy and studying literature and applied it to like a film criticism lens. How do those play a role together?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Definitely, as you just listed a few things that I put in my bio, actually has all these came from my literary and theoretical background. Which is much larger than film studies. And then historically, you know film studies is kind of a new discipline. It emerged in the 1960s-1970s, you know the U.S. universities started to have a film studies as a kind of a department and discipline around that time. And before that, there was nothing like that. Of course the film has only one century history, right, so the beginning of film study itself completely dependent on disciplines from other fields, especially literature, has no history in it to studies, has a lot of things you know, to develop. And then, so in this is the shift from literature to cinema, for me, was very kind of natural, it was not like a big drastic shift. Okay, and then, especially theoretically, for example, the concept of abjection you mentioned is a cycle analytic concept developed by Julia Kristeva, who is a French philosopher and psychoanalyst and literary critic too. And then, in the 1980s, she wrote a wonderful book about that concept, and then it became a kind of catchword in the arena of humanities and arts in general. So a lot of art criticism uses this term as well as some film scholars too, and I wanted to reframe the concept in my own approach to global cinema and that kind of thing always happens in my study of film. Okay, so very briefly, if you're interested the concept of abjection is to cast out something that is part of you, but then that is no longer useful or even that is harmful for you, so you need to cut it off, and this process itself is called abjection, it means you know you just abandoned something that was inside you. But then, this is no longer part of you in some sense. But then that does not disappear completely. It always comes back, which is called the abject, so the encounter with the abject can be in some sense detected in so many films. Something that was in some sense kind of excluded from my family, my identity. in my community, my nation comes back in the form for example, terrorist or refugees or something like. So this is like a global social context in which what I call the social abject comes back to us and then asks important questions to think about in terms of globalization and my relationship with those people. So it started with a very psychoanalytical, theoretical kind of approach to certain issues, but then I think that it's it can be applicable to these larger social contexts, which is addressed by so many films.
OLIVIA SATHER: I have to admit I was reading some of your scholarly work and some of your criticisms and when I first read it, I was like abjection, and you know bio-political film I was like I don't think I’ve seen any of these films, but then you made a comparison to Skyfall, one of the James Bond films and how that was a form of abjection. Can you talk a little bit about how these show up and are popular in quote unquote popular cinema and that they really do relate to films that many people have seen, but we maybe don't identify the philosophies or psychologies that are happening within those those films.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Exactly.
OLIVIA SATHER: I tried to do my homework.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Great, wonderful, good researcher. Well, yes, Skyfall is a James Bond film it’s one of the most luxurious entertaining franchises in the film history, so maybe you know a lot of people we just enjoy it and forget it. They just leave that, right. But then one reason for that franchise to last so long means that it always updates itself in a way of responding to the changing social/political environments. And then, and the role of the 007, which is secret agent in some sense this is very interesting figure, you know. Every country has such a figure who works for the government in the name of the law, but then, in in the dark, you know it should not be public, it should not be officially known to people. Why? Because there is always a certain level of going beyond the normal. When you are a secret agent sometimes you have to kill people, right? Okay, and then that you know, in a normal situation you are punished for that, but then in a specific condition in which you know this is secret agent work, it is allowed and then, so you know another James Bond film is called License to Kill. You know they are given the license to kill beyond the law in a way of creating a certain state of exception to the law, right? And this is a specificity of this kind of secret agent, it’s…a bio-political term, but then you can understand … having a certain kind of decision-making power that can even go beyond the law, and so, but then what is interesting in Skyfall to cut a long story short, is that in that film James Bond himself is abstracted from his own agents MI6, you may know that. So in the beginning of the film he does certain mission and he fails it, right and then he is in some sense excluded from the Agency, the agency considers him dead. So, from the beginning, he becomes a kind of symbolically dead agent. So the rest of the narrative shows how this abject figure struggles to recover his own previous…identity, okay? And then, through a second mission to fulfill in some sense recovers it, reclaims his own identity…towards the end you still have kind of a conventional happy ending of this franchise, but then this kind of narrative is slightly different than the previous films in the same series, which means that even such a secret agent, given the license to kill can be abjected from this system, the national law, or whatever, suddenly when it turns out to be useless or even harmful to the system itself. So anybody can be an abject and then in that regard, you can even apply this concept over…the precarious identity to become a kind of abject to everybody in this global situation, right? Who knows, you might lose your job, and then you become a homeless people, you become a refugee or something like that. So in that regard, I went to…reconsider this notion of abstraction in a larger context of globalization.
OLIVIA SATHER: It's in the cover of this flashy kind of fun action film, there is a deeper thing that connects with us on a human level. Many people have felt that, in some way of being cast out or cast off, and what that feeling is relatable that's how the art itself like communicates to us.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Exactly.
OLIVIA SATHER: Sometimes we're not aware that's happening. Um, yeah. What are some other examples? I know, I think I saw that you mentioned Snowpiercer is another example of a like a bio-political film, can you talk a little bit about like…I’m trying to uncover like some of these themes are things that we have seen in films, but maybe don't always recognize what's happening. I’m a big fan of the dystopian film genre, so you know, end of the world-type thing, but what's what's happening there for us philosophically. Why did those resonate with us so deeply?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Exactly. Well, when it comes to dystopian flim, it means that it pictures or prefigures a certain dystopian vision of the future, right? But then in any sci-fi film, why do we imagine a certain future that is not here? Because that is related to the present in some sense. Right?. So then we can go into details of that film’s period. Well, of course, it is all about abjection…passengers who are extracted from the whole system which is called the Snowpiercer, the train, right, are still there. They are not completely abandoned, you know they are part of the system, but not recognized as normal citizens for example. So in some sense …second way citizens, or the refugees within the system. Or the total abject, which is still in some sense used by the system whenever there's a need. For example, especially these people are not actually the traditional notion of the working class, because you don't they don't work basically. And then they are not paid for their work. We don't see them working, right? Even though it looks like a kind of work, you know a little socialist Communist revolutionary. Actually, the ocean, I mean the structure of this train and it's a social kind of context shows that this society, and this certain partner with abject people, in the case of emergency, for example, the engine car has a certain secret…can say basement, you know, compartment in which small children have to walk there in order to fix anything wrong in terms of operating the engine and so on. So those keys are needed from that abject group, the main characters of the pyramid right. So in some sense they just the supply their bodies, they are useful for the whole whole system, only as being bodies themselves, okay? So, in essence, it is bio-political. Bio-politics means that the politics on the level of you, you are your body is said to being part of the control system. It's not about voting for democracy, you know. Presidents, the Congressman or whatever, that's much more institutionalized and representative model of politics.
But then the bottom of any political system is bio-politics, why because power ultimately and originally means, it exercises itself onto your body. It can take off your life, it can just to promote you to better citizen or whatever. And that is the fundamental and basic notion of a power and then bio power means exactly, this way of power exempting exerting itself to people's bodies. So this film in some sense, in this regard is very bio-political and the bio- politically abject people are the main characters, but then of course there's a kind of revolution in…led by a heroic figure there, but then another interesting thing is that this is not a conventional disaster film. In Hollywood for example, usually, when it comes to a disaster, it is always overcome. Towards the end they have the kind of the restoration of the lost identity or reality, or your family, or whatever right? So there's a kind of still happy ending cycle comes back then in this film, you know even that revolutionary movement towards and against the power system fails. And then the leader of the group, you know the tailenders, as you may remember, at some point when he encounters the power, the leader of the system, I think his his name Wilford, he's even convinced to take…power right. Well, actually the Wilford was waiting for somebody to come, so that…it's time to you know give his his his his power to somebody else who can control the whole system. Right, so this kind of continuation of bio-power is in some sense presumed to sustain itself, right? But at a certain point, the main hero happens to look at the inside of the engine car, those children completely exploited to you know work in the engine in a horrible inhumane condition, right? And then he recognizes that. Okay, this is them, if it's always costed certain abject people as like a sacrifice, it may not deserve, you know, sustainability, okay. So he decides to destroy everything, right? But there may be still a kind of hope you know well after destruction of the system, there might be another utopia outside. But then, in the end, what we see is just the total destruction of the whole system, and then only three survivors, you know, one small Korean girl, and then a Black kid and then a polar bear, there. It's very ambiguous ending, I mean maybe an open ending, so in that regard I don't think this is a convention digestible [film] so that's why you know, one of my key terms in my global cinema studies is the cinema of catastrophe. The catastrophe in the sense of being going beyond the normal scale of a disaster, right? Because this kind of catastrophe movie does not really give you any hope. You may imagine that: Okay, there might be a new relationship between the polar bear and then to small kids, but in reality, though, it's very dismal, right? The polar bear might devour them. Who knows? So that sense it’s kind of film that inspires us to think farther about the future of humanity which may be very, very dystopian insofar as we continue our current civilization based on this type of bio-power and the exploitation of labels and so forth.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, wow. A lot to think about there. You, you also study what you call like emergent genres and some of those I didn't mention this in your intro were mind game films and like you mentioned the cinema of catastrophe, interface culture and post-humanism and popular culture. What is what is emergent about these genres and why are they emerging now? Are they like a reflection of what is happening in our global society? Is it a response to something? Why do new film genres emerged when they emerge?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yeah, exactly, as I just briefly mentioned in terms of Snowpiercer, this a film about globalization and it's you know, positive and negative aspects at once okay. Positively, it can connect all people, it can bring humanity to the next step…developed a technology or networking system, or whatever, new energy source. At the same time, it may, it may depend on the more…salary power system and that's always exploited to some people who cannot be regarded as a part of the system, and and then almost like a diminished to certain abject figures, right? And this is what is going on in our country society, in the name of globalization. Globalization is never always positive…we have to deal with both sides. And then exactly all these you know comes in the new trends that I wanted to explore, you mentioned more or less reflect both sides of globalization. Very briefly, for example, the mind game form is not directly related to globalization, but partly, now I wanted to develop more globalized, especially with a mind game…basically this concept refers to a …that plays games with the characters and spectators at once. Through very complex puzzle narratives such as Momento, Minority Report, or Mulhulland Drive, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that you may have seen. These are quite different from each other, some are very romantic or action thrillers, but what is common across these films, is that the characters sometimes don't know who they are or they are suffering from a certain traumatic experience so that they lost their identity or memory, or whatever. So what we have to see is to just to follow their struggle to regain their identity or subjective to whatever. And most of them are abject figure, basically, as I mentioned, you may we may now get the sense of the concept, right, so in that sense, I mean, this is interesting. Why? Because this trend started around the new millennium and Momento was made in 1999 actually. And then, if there are different levels of approaching this type of cinema, for example within the film studies, you know, aesthetically this is called a post-classical cinema, so the classical Hollywood system, for example, based on a certain central character, who is always pushing a certain goal to achieve, and so on and so forth, and then ends up with a final good happy ending doesn't work anymore, or it's not fresh fresh anymore. So a lot of filmmakers who wanted to experiment on alternatives to this type of classical narrative ideation right, so Momento is completely different from the kind of thing and then some other films, too. So there are a lot of big twists toward the end of the film, causing kind of cognitive dissonance and ontological shifts between reality and fantasy. You know memory and so on and so forth, sometimes quite disoriented. But then through this kind of experience, and you know viewership, what you get is that probably the society and our identity itself is no longer stable as before. When the classical Hollywood cinema always wanted to pick you know, in the form of a very centralized well-coherent heroic figure. The kind of subjectivity itself is is gives away to a new type of subjectivity in which identity is always instable. It may be very precarious, it can be an abject to at a certain moment, as we discussed why and that kind of instability or flexibility on the other hand, is the core of to base subjectivity in relation to today's very fast-changing environment, the social environment equal to be the new technology and globalization, with all its side effects, right, as I said, okay. So this why this type of film, natural catastrophe and then you mentioned, what is the interface culture actually, this is a little different, but then very briefly, this is a very aesthetic and which was actually because of the topic of my first book, but then, for example, a lot of mind-game films are also time travel films and, I’m actually giving a talk in my department next week. Interestingly, all time travel films, more or less, are about catastrophe, right. From the 1980s classics such as Terminator and Back to the Future to today’s time travel films, like Tenet which was released just last year. They depict a certain situation in which a catastrophe already happens, but then they want to go back to a certain point in time, so that they can, in some sense, prevent the very catastrophe from actually happening, right. So that's why time-travel is needed, but then, historically this time travel is more and more developed in Hollywood cinema, especially in the post 9/11 situation. So the 9/11 situation was so such a decisive moment in Hollywood the so that after that every film can be allegorical 9/11, there was a kind of a traumatic event why whether terroristic or not, you know, and then people want to you know, rewind time so that they can prevent it. So this motivation underlies time to everyone, which is also the cinema of catastrophe, which is also to some extent the mind game, because you know, because you know people are disoriented between past and present, and then, you know dream and the future or whatever, okay….I just want to say about the interface. Especially in order to activate this time travel sometimes you know you need a certain technology that interfaces with the past okay. So, if you look at, for example, Deja Vu or Source Code or such films, you know, there is a new technological development of reassigning time or you know shifting you back in back in time right through a certain interface. So you are always within a certain interface’s system in which you intervene with the past, trying to solve the problem there, but then shifting back to the present and in some sense you are stuck between present and the past… So all these are intermingling with each other in a way of provoking new thought experiments about our conditions of real life, technologically, social, political and aesthetically divide in the new ways.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, wow it, you know it really shows that, like how you know we often say in the theater, which is my background, like the theater often holds up a mirror to the audience holds up a mirror to society and film does the same thing, it's taking influence from and then giving back to what it is seeing in our global culture through globalization and through mass world events, almost. You know it's interesting also, while you were talking about these different elements, in Snow Piercer, the almost hopelessness at the end, and the uncovering of the child, being the the worker and the engine and the bio-political…what kept coming to my mind was Les Misérables. How so many of those themes from which was, which was a novel first, French literature, and then later the very famous musical, but many of those themes come through still almost,. the exploitation of the working class, the exploitation of children, the branding on his on his body. To be just a number and how those influences are still coming through into today's world, into our a sense of disorientation: where do we belong, we've been cast off from society, it's very interesting how those things still relate in some way.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: That's definitely a good way of thinking about that, I mean, it's a good reference, you know, Les Misérables…means you know people abandoned by society, but then not completely demolished, they are still living beings, right, okay. They need to belong to a certain community or network or whatever, but then they don't have an actual legally protected places, right. So they demand their places to the society. Of course, you know what I wanted to emphasize is the update of this limited visibility for example, you know so back in the you know the 19th century in France, you know, there was still like a class…sense of class right Okay, Les Misérables as kind of proletarian people who still need to be part of the system and they demand their right and wages and whatever. These days, for example in Snowpiercer, as I say, they are not really like a working-class people. And then there is no real hopeful sense of solidarity, either, you know. Actually one of the good father figures in that film, I think played by William [John] Hurt, you know it's like a wise guy gives good advice to the heroic figure, the main character, he is actually part of the system right. It turns out that you know, he was in some sense another aspect … so it's like… the bad cop, and then… good cop, or something like that. Which means you know, the system is much more cunning than before, and it always co-opting certain people from those miserable people, so that they can control and debug them in the way that the event the sense of revolution or radical change of the society seems quite you know how can I say invisible and then this is very, very bad situation and then this why I mean in some sense, all these films are more important, why because all these films, even if kind of evoking this social, political condition do not really give us a real solution. They don't say there is a good alternative outside. No. But then we cannot even demand those filmmakers and cinema to give us alternative social model that we, in reality, do not offer, right. So in some sense the whole world now is…between the past revolutionary political order and then the yet to come futuristic model which is maybe it's not completely promised. So, yeah, at global cinema in that regard there is in some sense in a bad luck, right. But at the same time, I think it's still important to look at them. Why? Because by doing so we could in some sense better recognize our situation, you know. and our being stuck in this stalemate itself may provoke certain new thinking and what, imagination, or whatever, if not realistically completely feasible. So in that regard, yes, I see these films.
OLIVIA SATHER: That's a lot to think about there, and you know we've been talking a lot about how we've been talking a lot about how global cinemas a reflection of globalization and our global culture and mass world events but apart from the films that are being made, how is the film industry itself shifting with globalization. Just last year in 2020, Parasite won the Oscar, it was a well-deserved wonderful film, I loved it, but that's changing the way we're looking at cinema that's made globally, instead of thinking you know the Academy has often been focused very much on U.S.-made films and that's shifting they've changed some of the criteria. So what is shifting in the industry itself, do you think as our world increasingly becomes globalized and, in some regards, access to making films is greater we can shoot 4k on our cell phones for goodness sakes, so how are things shifting in that regard with the industry itself.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yeah, exactly, I think this aspect in the in the film industry is also all related to what we have discussed so far in terms of globalization within the cinema content, right, okay? Parasite is a good, very good example. It is totally local right there was no international actor, or whatever, it's like a real Korean film, but what we see is the very polarized class distinction that is very universal in this global society right and then. But then again, this is not a kind of revolutionary political film, as I said. What is going on there is actually the miserable in this film not really challenge the system directly but then they want to be part of it, okay? They want to get a job there, they want to also enjoy some luxury in their life and so on and so forth, why slightly you know distinguish them from other people in the same for example class right? So in this regard this is more realistically, how can a sensitive to what's going on in our capitalistic society too, right. And then another thing is that you know, as I said, globalization has two sides: on one end it wants to be inclusive, multicultural, very democratic and the labor based on social networking technology, you know…on the other end this inclusion is never completed. It always creates its own remnants excluded from the system, and then those excluded could come back in a very horrible way, terroristically and so on, as opposed, as I said. In this film towards you know it made, of course, up to half the middle of the film, as we see, the miserable people want to be part of the system, and then the owner, I mean the rich people say: I’m okay with you, I, like you, just do not cross the line, okay? That is the message and then this is actually our multicultural message to all those people, refugees and so on and so forth okay: I want to tolerate you, I want to upset you, I want to impress you, but a certain point, we have a certain invisible boundary. We want to keep, okay? Do not really cross the line, you know. I don't really want to be bothered too much by you, okay, it's okay, for you to be a certain part of my land or by nation, but not really in my neighborhood. That kind of sensitivity is in some sense, you know already indicative of the double side of globalization as multicultural right, and then in that regard since this line, he said, it's maintained. A certain point, it can be also subordinated and destroyed through a terrorist attack which exactly occurs toward the end of this film. So, on one hand, the multiculturalism, on the other end the terrorism, the two sides of the same coin, called globalization, are very locally transformed into this trauma called Parasite. And I think that this is, this is a really global. What I mean is that now global cinema can be very, very local while at the same time, reflecting the very universal aspect of globalization, too. And as you mentioned, you know it's easier to make a film, right, even with your cell phone, you can you can make a good film, if you want, and so on and so forth, which means that I guess that this will be a trend. It is not abnormal that Parasite is the best picture award last year, where this year just last week Nomadland won the best picture and best director at the Oscars ceremonies, right? It was directed by Chloé Zhao,
still Chinese, I don't think she…but who works with the you know completely globalized network people right, but in a very local way too, okay, And have you seen Nomadland?
OLIVIA SATHER: It is on my watch list, no I haven't seen it yet.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: It is, you know it, you cannot imagine how such a film could have been imagined in the past. It was impossible. Nowadays, it seems very natural. Well, who cares you know the identity of the directory in the case. The film is about homeless people, completely American, and then mostly just white homeless people, okay, so we are in there, but, and then the main character just travels around the whole West, you know, I think. She doesn't come to California, but anyway, somewhere, here. And then they meet other homeless people and so on and so forth…she meets, you know that’s the story, right? And, of course, again, this is not a political revolution film. It does not mean that you know those homeless people want to get together to create a solidarity movement, you know against the system. No. They just lose their jobs, but then they want to create their own another lifestyle, you know. Based on certain precarious solidarity. But of course that does not give them any type of utopian dream whatever. It's not the romantic nomadic film at all, okay. But then this sheer aspect of realistic view of a certain abject group of people that were you know cast out of the system systems as it's very tempting and then compelling, and especially for such a young and talented filmmakers like Chloé Zhao…it's not that different, right? And then I think that you know this trend will be going on. Last year everybody said that Parasite might have been might be just an exception right, but then you know just successively, the best picture award that was given to a you know minority director in some sense and then, this year, another you know important film was Minari, it's about you know Asian Korea and Korean American family.
OLIVIA SATHER: I did see that one. It was good.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yeah yeah it was quite moving right?
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: At the same time any I think it's also important to compare it to Nomadland. On the one hand, Minari is all about how to have a home in this state, you know, in this country, right? On the other hand…that hope for having home itself is illusory to some extent. So, of course, you know Minari is about…the Korean American group community, but it's still going on, you know who knows who wouldn't want to have a home. At the same time, the sense of having a home as like an American dream itself can be put into question right in a different way…then again, you know…in the conventional sense of that Oscar award whatever, but then nowadays if they are just coming into the center of the stage, and I think that this trend will go on go on. And then there's also kind of the institutional, how can I say, increase the sensibility to diversity and inclusion, right and then nowadays, this is a kind of standard we have a lot of the diversity programs, and so on and so forth. And then, so the whole society, especially in the US now, after the last years’ turmoil social, political and so forth, I think now we really like moves moves toward the next step in terms of inclusion, so that there will be more minor or bigger-budget films, but then a little more attention to these side effects of globalization, whatever. And then we see such films in the mainstream…more and more.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, I think so, too, and you know I’m happy I’m glad to hear you say that it, it gives a lot to think about and I’m excited for what films we’ll see coming out, you know this year was difficult because of the pandemic, a lot of films that were supposed to come out didn't and delayed a lot of projects, but I’m excited to see what comes out of the pandemic as people return to making movies and art of all forms. I would love to keep talking, I find this topic and the conversation fascinating, but I want to be respectful of your time and so we'll move into my final three questions or two questions I’ve been doing this at the end of my conversations with our podcast guests just some fun way to end things rapid questions do you have a favorite film of all time if so, what is it.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: So never ask this stupid question. [laugher] Standard answer.
OLIVIA SATHER: I know. [laughter]
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: One great thing about the film viewing and film scholarship is that you know you don't need to taste, to you, I trust your taste, because there are so many good films and and my taste always changes and this is a good thing. You can always enjoy anything if you are open-minded and serious enough, okay…There are two answers: a conventional answer a little more experimental answer and the conventional answer is Blade Runner actually, the original from…1982…it's like a cult sci-fi right which is so inspiring but still important I think, but I saw that, as I said, you know when I was just like a teenage boy in the dark living room in my house when I turned on my TV just randomly and of course I didn't know anything about the film, but I was just captivated by some images there, you know and then that lingered in my mind for so long…paradoxically, a few years later, when I saw it in the second time for the second time, with the full knowledge about the film, I lost all my nostalgia for that film. And that was a very interesting experiencing, you know. The first kind of encounter with that film, in in some sense, mystified way, was like an illusion for me, okay. That only lingered in my mind, like a ghost that would not be materialized, but anyway that influenced my mind a lot and it has a lot of things to talk about intellectually. But then, yes, in terms of my film buff yes, that kind of triggered it. And then another I want to briefly mention …French film…Breathless that I mentioned, and then Breathless is like a landmark French New Wave…it is about a couple who are escaping from the society. So it's like an update to Breathless, to some extent, but then it was so kind of loaded with many interesting and intellectual and cultural references to develop. And then actually, I think, by kind of academic interest with them started with my experience of presenting this film at a student conference about the French New Wave around when I was in the college in Korea, actually. I didn't know that much about that, but then anyway, I chose this film and I I explored it, day and night, and that was at the moment, very difficult, I mean it's hard to understand. And then the the source of the film that I got was very poor in quality or whatever, so I don't think I completely…everything there, but then, since I invested in so much time and energy…remains in my mind.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, some that films just stay with you. Yes, very cool well, thank you for sharing those will link them in the show notes as well, I love Blade Runner too, but I'll have to check out the French New Wave film as well, and the final question: what are you looking forward to as we return to more in person events or, in our specific case returning to classes and seeing students and professors or anything, what are you looking forward to, in general, as our world begins to open up as we get closer to the end of the pandemic?
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Yes, definitely as me other people may say I really look forward to meeting all those people I’ve only ever seen online, in person to check if they are not just the ghosts but real human beings with flesh and bones. [Laughter.] So yeah, this is very excellent and real thing. And, of course, there may be a lot of events and experiences we can enjoy, but then I think that the most important aspects of in person experiences, after those events you know, for example in the zoom land now there are a lot of conferences, I attend and even today, I mean there was a talk, you know by somebody and I wanted to be there, and so on and so forth, but then, this is a very much focusing on the content itself and after the end of discussion on top of…there is no like a post event social you know connection and networking involving some…or whatever, which is sometimes more important than the actual event itself okay.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yeah, you get to discuss what you heard.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: And I also want to explore, you know this region, because it's relatively still new to me, and then there are a lot of other universities in the L.A. area and Southern California and California and then the nation in general so maybe I could visit you know what is some places, and then invite some people from there, so that we can have a more energetic conversations.
OLIVIA SATHER: Absolutely, welcome welcome to southern California definitely a lot to explore here. I’ve only been here for five years, and I still feel like I have a lot. Well, my dad was military so kind of all over the place, but my my my dad is from the Pacific Northwest and my mom is from England. Kind of like a nomad in my own right.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: Okay.
OLIVIA SATHER: Well, Professor Jeong thank you so much for being here today, I I really appreciate your insight and your scholarship and getting to have this conversation with you is very interesting and I’m excited to dive more into thinking a little more critically about the popular films I view and how they may be a reflection of our world.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: definitely agree, it was my pleasure, I really enjoyed this talk to you and, yes, yes let's meet in person in the fall.
OLIVIA SATHER: Yes.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: After you watch all those film that I mentioned.
OLIVIA SATHER: I definitely will. Thank you so much, and have a good day.
SEUNG-HOON JEONG: You too, bye bye.
OLIVIA SATHER: Beyond the Stage is produced by the Carpenter Performing Arts Center at Cal State Long Beach. Views expressed by guests of the show or the hosts are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the University. A special thanks to today's guest and the entire staff of the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, including our Executive Director Megan Kline Crockett. Audio engineering is provided by Ken Beaupre. Graphic design by Patti Laurrell. Digital Communications by Franz Neumann, and additional marketing and media assistance by Amber Legaspi-Valdez. Our theme music is by Ken Beaupre. If you'd like to support Beyond the Stage or the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, please donate online at Carpenterarts.org. Thank you for joining us today and we'll see you next time.