Show and Tell: The Korean Way

Stories matter. Some say they can save lives. How we tell those stories well is up for debate. Sure we have that tired writer’s wisdom of “Show don’t tell”  from Henry James that is in just about every writer’s craft book, or David Mamet’s distilled, more terse, advice “don’t write a crock of shit.” (The shit was the whole telling bit.)

But Mamet and James come from the western tradition. Is it different here, in Korea?

Well, I want to take a unscientific look at some films for you to get a sense of the wild vibrancy that goes from Loony tunes exploits to alien squid induced madness that demonstrate the whole “show and tell” debate here in Korea.

(Both you can watch during your lunch break and get a sense of what is going on here in Korea, artistically at least.)

First up is my favorite cartoon: LARVA (No Korean Language Skills Needed)

They captured the physical comedy of Looney Tunes and mashed up it up with Pixar. Without any words, they can tell stories. Granted they’re more hijinx stories of simple desires and life and death moments, but there’s something enduring about it. Maybe I’m childish, but I think just about everyone can agree that from the moment it starts, it has our attention.

Second is a Korean Indie Short Film: 대리전 Daerijeon: The Proxy War (Don’t Speak Korean? Well, you’ll get the idea. Sort of.)

You can read the synopsis here.

This madness from directed by Jihyun Park, is out there. Like the short story it’s based on. The story is told the stills and accented with the movements and sudden sounds breaking out from seemingly nowhere along with the *GASP* THE TELLING! of the narration.

Does this detract from the story? Madness rings true for me, so no. Granted my Korean isn’t good enough to keep up with the narration, to me it had that campfire feel to it.

I forgot to mention that Jihyun Park and her husband Gord Seller of Brutal Rice Productions are good friends and had me on set one day to getting in the way. For that they included me in the credits which is always awesome.

But is it best to “Show, don’t tell” when we create stories on paper, on film, or at the table surrounded by your friends in the bar?

Personally, I think it’s a hangup– it’s a way to clean up boring stories and cut to the chase that somehow gotten a reverence that goes beyond reason.

Because really, do you think LARVA could tell Daerijeon’s story without the telling?

I don’t.

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