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[Guest Film Review] "Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno"

2017/04/08 | Permalink

"Bamseom Pirates" is a band consisting of bassist Jang Sung-geon (aged 29) and drummer Kwon Yong-man (aged 31). Their music is an extreme mixture of grindcore and punk, not to mention they frequently combine their music with the breaking of things. However, what set them apart and eventually garnered great attention towards the duo is their song titles and lyrics, with "All hail to Kim Jong-il" and "I like the commie" being distinct samples.

Jung Yoon-suk-I follows the group from 2010 onward, presenting their unique style while focusing on their characters and the reasons that compel them to do what they are doing. Their live shows are bound to produce some laughs, as they usually start with a number of comments that are hilarious, and since their lyrics are quite hard to understand due to their extreme vocals, they use PowerPoint presentations, which are, at least, equally funny. However, under all this humour lies a pointy critique of the state, and particularly the way the relations with North Korea affect the laws and the general mentality of the country. In this fashion, their songs are inspired of actual events and incidents, like the talks between the leaders of the two Koreas that ended up in offensive dialogue or the arrest of their friend and producer, Park Jung-geun, for -tweeting messages from the North Korean account "Uriminzok". This last episode also ends up in the biggest crisis of their career.

Jung Yoon-suk-I retains an impressive balance between their humour and their political and social ideas, as both are presented through a number of interviews and live performances usually associated with protests, such as against the Korea–US Free Trade Agreement, the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island and the 3/11 Fukushina Daiichi nuclear disaster. One of the most shocking sequences is the one when, during a concert in an anti-eviction demonstration in an underground facility construction, construction companies send paid rioters and armed thugs to break it up, while the police does not intervene. The Pirates, though, manage to joke even for this episode.

The various interviews with the duo are quite interesting, as their social and political thoughts are revealed, again in a combination of humour and seriousness. I could not help laughing when Jung Yoon-suk-I asks Kwon Yong-man about his lack of ambition and he replies, "My ambition is to create trashy music and make noise".

Bordering on two hours, the documentary is quite lengthy, but as the setting keeps changing (concerts, demonstrations, interviews, discussions on TV etc) and through its elaborate editing, it manages to remain captivating for the whole of its duration. The camera work is also quite good, in true guerrilla fashion as Jung Yoon-suk-I followed the duo even in their most extreme "excursions", as is the violent episode I described before. In that fashion, he explores the underground culture of S.Korea, through images that are very rarely seen in the country's cinema.

"Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno" is a great documentary that combines meaningfulness and entertainment, guerrilla style and elaborateness, punk and politics, in a unique amalgam about the lesser known aspects of S.Korean society.

Review by Panos Kotzathanasis




"Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno" is directed by Jung Yoon-suk-I

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