An illegal Chinese immigrant living on the streets in Korea, subject to terrible racial abuse, Lee Kwang survives by stealing dogs from shelters and selling them to butchers. This short begins with his finding of a golden retriever named Bori that makes the lonely cruel days on the streets a little more bearable.
Lee Kwang is offered a mediocre price for this golden retriever that is apparently “no meat, all fur”. Deciding to keep Bori, he becomes more approachable to passers-by, bringing out their generosity with his “Need money for dog-food” sign. This man, once alone in the world, now has a companion and dare I say a friend. Personally not one for stories that revolve around animals myself, this short stripped any mawkish or slushy connotations from what one could expect, as the situation at hand has absolutely nothing maudlin about it.
The themes of homelessness and companion, or lack thereof, were impeccably illustrated by director Joo Hwan Kim. Dialogue was equally convincing, through the praise-worthy performances in ‘Retriever’. Lee Kwang’s relationship with Bori comes to a harrowing and emotional end, but what follows is all the more powerful. The director deserves praise for avoiding what would have be an obvious ending, instead choosing a route that evokes far more realism and empathy than the events proceeding it.
This was my personal highlight of the first night of Lift-Off, and if you must only see one of the night’s selection, I highly recommend taking half an hour to watch this.
Directed by Joo Hwan Kim
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