Mother Land Mother Land

Korea’s animation industry has demonstrated world-class flexibility when it comes to executing different styles of animation. Companies from around the globe have hired Korean studios to animate features of all different styles, but one medium has been rarer than most for nearly half a century, stop motion.

There have been some stop-motion shorts from the peninsula in recent years, perhaps most notably the work of award-winning artist Kim Kangmin, but nobody has produced a full-length feature since Gang Tae-ung’s Kongjui & Patchui was released in 1978.

That will change later this month when first-time filmmaker Park Jae-beom’s feature Mother Land hits Korean theaters on January 25. The film turns on a young Siberian girl and her brother who venture into the unforgiving wilderness to seek out an old spirit that might be able to help their sick mother.

“The unique thing about Mother Land is that it’s a stop-motion animation,” Park explained during the Busan International Film Festival in October of last year. “I tried to express elements of fairy tales and folk tales using cinematic techniques.”

He went on, “Another thing is that although I captured the dolls’ movements one frame at a time, I wanted to make it appear as actual actors performing. From characters, building the set, shooting, and computer graphics, I paid particular attention to the overall production process.”

Park and his team spent three years working on Mother Land, which was produced by the director’s alma mater Korean Academy of Film Arts – although it’s not a student film and Park graduated back in 2004. Other key creative talent includes cinematographers Hye-ryeong Song, Ye-bin Kim, and Young-dae Jo; production designer Yun-ji Lee; editors Jae-beom Park and Ye-bin Kim; and composer Min-young Sohn.

Mother Land

At a press conference on Tuesday, Park could hardly believe that his labor of love is about to be released in Korea. “I think it is a miracle in and of itself that our film got to be released. I hope that through our film many more people will get to know the diverse work that is being done in animation and stop-motion in Korea.”

In addition to the main plot of a young girl trying to save her mother, Mother Land also features the conflict between nature and industry, as the young protagonist’s home and tribe are threatened by hostile government forces that are looking to exploit the land for its natural resources.

“The story is a confrontation between nature and industry, but I also thought that it is a reduced version of the world we live in naturally,” said Park. “Even the antagonist, Lieutenant Vladimir, is not someone who believes that he is doing anything purely evil but thinks that he is serving his country.”

Mother Land is preparing for international releases sometime later this year, but no distribution details are yet available beyond its Korean launch. M-Line Distribution is handling global sales.

Park’s press conference quotes were first published in English by Korea JoongAng Daily.

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