Filmmakers in attendance.
Set in a changing Seoul circa 1994, a lonely 14-year-old Eun-hee moves through life like a hummingbird searching for a taste of sweetness wherever she may find it. Deprived of attention from her family, she attempts romantic relationships with both girls and boys alike. Winner of this year’s Grand Prix Generation 14plus in Berlin.
Growing up is not easy. Arriving at middle school age is especially daunting as you become more aware of yourself. Add to that the demands of parents who expect more from you than you are able to give and suddenly the pressure can feel to much. HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD is, as its title might suggest, a story about feeling confined, of rattling through life at a different speed and not given the freedom to stretch your ideas and opinions. And like a hummingbird, sometimes you move so fast it feels like your standing still.
Eighth grader Eun-hee lives in Seoul with her older brother and sister and their parents. It’s 1994, the year of the deadly Seongsu Bridge collapse, which plays an important role in the movie beyond providing context to time and place. Like other girls her age, Eun-hee is experimenting with a first love, boredom in school, and hanging out with friends – mostly at karaoke joints. Life at home, however, has become increasingly difficult. Her older brother is abusive, and her parents are oblivious to her needs and concerns. There’s a death in the family and a tragedy that grips the entire country. Fortunately for Eun-hee, she finds guidance and friendship in the form of her tutor, Kim Young-ji. But even this relationship is fleeting and as the difficulties mount, Eun-hee still feels trapped.
A stunning feature film debut by writer/director Bora Kim, HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD is an authentic and focused portrayal of a family navigating through life’s difficulties. With an assured directing style, Kim lingers long enough on each scene to capture that extra emotional beat without sacrificing pace and energy of the film. Newcomer Park Ji-hu is vulnerable and honest as Eun-hee and carries this film with a quiet magnetism that radiates on screen. Jeong In-gi, who plays her father, and Lee Seung-yun, who plays her mom, are incredible counters to Park, portraying parents who are too focused on work and their children’s future to see what’s happening in front of them. Yet, the humanity they bring, along with Kim’s excellent writing, to their characters creates three-dimensional people who garner our empathy. It’s a difficult task, but one that Kim’s nuanced film does so well.
Hummingbirds flap their wings 70 times per second. They are the fastest bird in the world and are the only birds that can fly backwards. When you’re reaching adulthood, and you become more acutely aware of the bad things, you want to be able to move faster through rough patches and sometimes even go back to how things were before. But, while you’d certainly like to be, you’re really not in charge and have to move along with everyone else. You’re beating your wings as fast as you can without any real freedom. You’re trapped, and the only way out is forward. —Jeremy Gaudette
Co-presented with Community Partners: Empowerhouse
Director: Kim Bo-Ra
Producer: Kim Bo-Ra, Zoe Sua Cho
Editor: Zoe Sua Cho
Cinematographer: Kang Gook-Hyun
Production Designer: Kim Geun-A
Music: Matija Strniša
Cast: Park Ji-Hu, Kim Sae-Byuk, Lee Seung-Yeon, Jeong In-Gi