Snail story

Director Seung Jun-Yi on Planet Of Snail

by Val Kermode

Planet Of Snail was shown today at Sheffield's Doc/Fest, where we were especially proud to have the director, because he first proposed the making of this film at Doc/Fest's MeetMarket in 2009. The film was very well received, and its sensitive and unassuming director, Seung Jun-Yi, was there after the screening for a Q&A. The audience warmed to him as we did to his remarkable film.

Planet Of Snail looks at the lives of a deaf-blind man and the wife who cares for him. Seung Jun-Yi told us that at first the couple, Young-Chan and Soon-Ho, refused to be filmed because of the way the media generally deals with disabled people. But when they got to know the director they agreed. After completion, Seung Jun-Yi described sequences to them and they thanked him for making the film.

Did he know them before? How did he begin the project?

Young -Chan started learning finger spelling and showed an exceptional ability, which led to his appearance in the Korean media. Seung Jun-Yi was researching finger spelling and contacted him. He spent over two years with the couple, building a relationship with them.

He says “It was important to follow their tempo, their pace of life. Sometimes I went to their flat and didn't film at all. Soon-Ho would make me a coffee and say that Young-Chan wasn't in the mood for filming.”

He adds “It was important to understand them and for them to understand me, not just as a director, but as a human being.”

He was asked “How long could Young-Chan hear in his childhood?

At three or four years old after a fever he gradually lost his sight and his hearing, so he had already learned to speak. He is still not totally deaf and can hear a little if in a very quiet place, but cannot make out speech. We see him in the film listening and copying the sound of the sea.

Was it an advantage that he couldn't feel the camera (and so wasn't aware of the filming)?

The director says that Young-Chan always knew when he was being filmed. He made sure that he told Soon-Ho when he was about to film. “If you spend a lot of time with people, they will open up and feel comfortable. Time is the most important thing.”

The film contains many reflections on life, death and loneliness. Seung Jun-Yi was asked whether that was something the couple regularly did or if was it something he encouraged for the film.

He pointed out that Young-Chan wrote most of his essays when he was in his twenties, before filming began. He is a naturally reflective person and this was not just for the film.

Has the film been screened in Korea?

Yes, and this resulted in many interviews, but the box office wasn't great. People were probably expecting a gloomy film, but those who saw it were pleased. He jokes, “Someone said “I brought a tissue, but I didn't need to use it!”

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