To the Starry Island

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Now that reunification is within sight at last, I identify with the protagonist of this film, an artist who returns to his native place and searches for the key to the peace and harmony that were destroyed forty years ago. Even a place like this island could not remain immune to the hatred and discord unleashed in the Korean War.
—Park Kwang-su

Set on a remote island, lacking both social and economic progress and the political suffering of the mainland, this film draws us into a traditional way of life that has hardly changed over the years. Returning to bury a dead man, the protagonist stays to untangle a village mystery. the flashback structure juxtaposes the scarred body of the present village with wounds of the past, as the poet recalls his childhood, when prewar between the Communists and Nationalists was escalating.

Politically daring, this parable of a country’s national division is told with limpid grace as the poet first recalls the island’s prewar tranquility and then, gradually, faces up to its discordant misery. to the boy,m the joys and sorrows of the adult islanders are magical mysteries, and the horrors that eventually grip the island are simply fragments of his dreams. As the story unfolds and the protagonist evolves into an adult, the elegiac quality of the film deepens in beauty and resonance.

— Kay Armatage, Toronto Film Festival

Screening Details

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