Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sa-I-Gu: A Piece Of A Larger Picture

Sa-I-Gu successfully voices the frustration of Korean women who were directly affected by the LA riots.  However, amidst the anger and emotion expressed via film, I became increasingly frustrated with the director's zealous focus on the personal grief of the Korean women as objective and contextual information was never provided as supplementary material.  Despite the valid argument that the sole purpose of the film was to highlight the perspective of Korean women in LA at the time, their perspectives are representative of only one affected segment of the LA population.


From the perspective of the Korean women interviewed for Sa-I-Gu, the United States was no longer a perfect country.  The general sentiment of victimization as scapegoats for African American anger towards Caucasians, abandonment by the LAPD and indifference from city government overall echoed by all the women quickly shattered any preexisting notion of the United States as a great and prosperous nation.  Words infused with anger and pain evoked racist feelings towards the African American community as well as the Caucasian community revealed the high level of tension regarding race relations in Los Angeles and the United States as a whole.  However, Christine Choy did not attempt to expand on this topic and only added a minor addendum after the film ends to very briefly discuss the statements of the Korean women.  There was no additional research material revealed or interviews with academics and others who may have added to a greater understanding of how events spiraled out of control.


The statements in Sa-I-Gu raise questions about how different ethnicities perceive each other and what role the media has to play in the discussion.  Viewpoints tend to vary by generation, upbringing, connection to provocative events such as the LA riots, what individuals filter from media sources and a variety of other factors perhaps too extensive to comprehensively mention in this post.  Nevertheless, films such as Sa-I-Gu must cannot solely rely on the opinions of one particular group without providing sufficient attention to others involved in the situation.  African Americans were rarely interviewed in Sa-I-Gu.  Another issue that arises is a need for self-awareness on the part of the filmmakers.  Choy's film tends to favor the reactionary and emotional at times as opposed to objective and insightful analysis.  Sa-I-Gu had the opportunity to focus on the Korean women while simultaneously offering a holistic view of the riots.  Criticism aside, this film is not without merit.  


Sa-I-Gu allowed viewers to delve into the mindset of Koreans, particularly women, in the aftermath of the LA riots and follow their narratives.  The very existence of the film is another channel for hearing, seeing and understanding Asian and Asian American perspectives in a country whose media generally glosses over this demographic.  Despite the short length of the film, Sa-I-Gu adds to the discourse of race and socioeconomic class relations in the United States and American cities such as Los Angeles.  City politics, economics, the context of the early 1990s, African American and Latino viewpoints in LA, the Caucasian perspective, and an analysis of the culture of the LAPD and city police agencies are the additional pieces to the "puzzle" that are connected to Sa-I-Gu.  All the pieces need to be reflected upon in order to even attempt to answer the never ending question of "why?"   

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