Peter Kim George
Film Critic, UK
I began writing on film while finishing my PhD in literature; thinking through film has been an essential part of how I thought about language, visual and textual, and how we try to collectively project ourselves beyond the social-political quagmire of the here and now. I take film writing as an extension of the experience of film viewing—you get to slow time down, to linger in and ruminate on the parts of the film that fascinate but continue to elude you. As a New York based playwright and film critic, this mode of close reading has been essential to my creative work as well. Writing on Hitchcock’s Rope, queer theorist D.A. Miller describes close reading as the writerly act of staving off death—not only the idea of one’s own, but also the fear that a film, one that has meant the world to you for so long, might, on the umpteenth viewing, cease to mean anything at all.
This is obviously a strange and difficult time for filmmakers, critics, viewers—our tendency has been to vacillate between the position that art and the moving image matters now more than ever, and then the notion that perhaps art is less important right now, that it should take a necessary backseat to the urgent task of doing politics. What is more important to consider as a critic now, a film’s formal, stylistic innovation, or its immediate political messaging? This is an urgent, open question that occupies me—a question that is vexed by the fact that in the States, film writing can often times be strictly siloed, each type according to its overt purpose. For example, a film like Minari has generated three distinct types of film writing: one that praises its ‘diversity’ and ‘multiculturalism’, one that examines its formal components of dialogue, character, and performance, and one that touts its worthiness on the awards circuit. It asks more of the reader, writer, and publication to consider these in tandem—that what a film is ‘doing’ politically is never outside of how it works formally, which is also never outside of the industry in which it participates.
Like many others who were born and grew up in California, I am second generation Korean diaspora; my relationship to my own Americanness is necessarily complicated due to its legacy of slavery and empire. Decolonisation has been a productive concept and conversation starter in the past year for institutions, one in which I’d like to participate in terms of how even supposedly liberal values can and should be examined rigorously in the context of global inequities, and the role arts institutions have in democratizing access and opportunities. This is a topic I particularly look forward to exploring with the cohort of BT Press 2021.
(Written for the Berlinale Talent Press of 2021)