Movies in the Spencer’s Korean/Japanese Film Festival have traveled far to be here.

Seoul Searching 

Movies in the Spencer’s Korean/Japanese Film Festival have traveled far to be here.

Few Korean movies make it to American screens. Sopyonje -- showing this Sunday as the first movie in the Spencer Museum's Korean/Japanese Film Festival -- is impossible to track down at local video stores. That's a big part of why it's in the festival.

"It's the oldest, most traditional film we're showing," says film-selection committee member Nancy Hope. "It's from 1993, and it's kind of a modern classic in Korea. It's not even at Liberty Hall [Lawrence's independent video store]."

Sopyonje is a lyrical film about a blind woman who sings traditional Pansori music. The other two Korean movies are Yogo-Goedam (Whispering Corridors), a ghost story set in a girls' high school; and JSA (Joint Security Area), an action movie about tensions between North and South Korea.

Because screening a wide range of Korean movies wasn't an option for festival planners, the head of the Korean collection at KU's East Asian Library began by researching films using the Internet. After polling Korean students to find out what they wanted to see, she contacted the Korean Cultural Center in California for input and for help tracking down videos.

Viewers who attend the screening of Sopyonje should be forewarned: This is an unbelievably sad movie. A washed up Pansori singer travels the country by foot with his two children, who are learning the dying folk art even though it's unlikely ever to put food on their tables. When the father's temper and quixotic pride become too much to bear, the boy runs away. Whether the father blinds his daughter so she can't leave him or so that the sorrow of the Pansori songs will find deeper expression in her voice remains uncertain. The story is told through flashbacks as the grown boy searches for his sister.

People who don't like slow movies are sure to fidget through this one, but it's worth sitting still for the music and the landscape.

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