Doomealee, the very first step - Synopsis :: 2004/06/07 22:44

A girl is waiting for a bus among the crowd of Kapyung county's terminal. It's 4 February 2000, eve of lunar New Year's Day. People are heading for their hometown, and so is the girl, who is in her mid teens and has been away from home to earn money. Her name is Eun-young. The bus brings her to the home village, Doomeal. Getting off the bus, she hurries home with an armful of presents bought with her first pay. On the back of running Eun-young, overlaps a 6 year ago scene of the children who are coming down a snowy hill of Doomeal laughing and chattering. While Eun-young enjoys New Year's Day, time goes back to January 1996. and winter story starts.

One day in heavy snowfall, an old man is dead and the villagers hold a funeral for three days, and among them appear four men who were heros of the fight to preserve their children's school in 1994; Wang, Park, Ku, and Shin. Sorrowful day as it is, the younger men's jests and laughs make it rather cheerful. And in another winter day, a farmer's slack season, Wang (ex-representative of the fight) gives his story; The old days of Doomeal village and its school, the hardness of rural lives, worries about his son studying away from home and his hopes in the future...... Time passes like that, and in February 1998 Eun-young's younger sister Eun-ju, both of whom are Shin's daughters, graduates elementary school and will be a middle school student. When her former school got closed, she was in her third grade and said that she wishes to be a judge so that she will be able to re-open her school afterwards.

And in May of the same year, the spring story of Doomeal village starts from rice planting. The Wangs, the Parks and the Kus begin a year's farming in cooperation with each other, their children helping the works. Between the hard works, they drink raw rice wine and crack joyful jokes sitting on a bank of paddy field, which eases the pains of farming. Sounds of laughter echoing through the valley carry their prayers for good harvest. With the green paddy growing, the villagers of Doomeal sow another seed of hope that they will establish an alternative school on the lot of the closed school for themselves, although the government shut it down for the reason of economy. In 1998 the court finally takes sides with the government. Nonetheless the peasants grow their own hope little by little.

Summer story
shows the Parks' and the Kus' everyday works of the season; the former raise pigs in a shed and the latter, grapevines in a field. Everything had gone well until that sultry day. The dream of alternative school was upset by the threshold of rent cost; the local authorities of education charged more than five thousand dollars a year for the rent of site. Moreover they left to the villagers' care the cost for repair of the building, which can hardly borne by the petty farmers. People, including them who had supported the villagers since the time of fight in 1994, got dispirited. And at last, they gave up their dream. The reality won over the dream, you say! Day by day Doomeal villagers grew out of spirits under the fiery sun. No one dared to talk about 'school' in that summer. There is no school in Doomeal any longer. Meanwhile a news came from the distance that "keepers of small schools" would be established, which was based on the movement initiated by Doomeal villagers. Ku, Park, Shin and Wang were invited to the inaugural ceremony as the forerunners. Wang said "If only just one school had joined us when we were fighting..."

The hot summer passes by, and fall story unfolds on the bright faces of the children. Boys and girls of Doomeal start their autumn term in September 1999. Next year some will become middle or high school students, and others will prepare for examination for college entrance. All of them were once the students of the closed elementary school, however they scarcely remember those days. In the course of time, the villagers hear a news from "keepers of small schools." It's that the organization sees achievements of its' movement; some local authorities withhold the policy to close the small schools in submission to their protests. It's a precious fruit of the seed sown by Doomeal villagers 6 years ago. Time goes and everything bears fruit as the nature does.

However, how about Doomeal villagers? Their beloved school disappeared and an unfamiliar hostel displaced it. What are their gains on earth? Let's see. it was time to sing for good harvest when a typhoon strikes Doomeal. Almost all the paddy plants lie down, with the ripe grains getting drenched. What can the farmers do except standing them up one by one? Moreover as a combine does not work on a muddy field, they reap with sickles. Carrying rice bags on his shoulder, Wang says to himself, "This is life, man." His face gets covered with sweat and the breath, out.

Winter Story again
. Kyu-chul, Shin's son, will graduate elementary school, and Eun-young, who appeared in the prologue, middle school. She will leave away to get a job. She is restless expecting to leave the "monotonous country." Her dream is to be a make-up artist. And she promises to live earnestly, working in day and studying in night. In the day when she leaves, it snows. Is life something like these?

2000, 35mm, 80 min

invited to 5th Pusan Int'l Film Festival
invited to Cinema du Reel Int'l Documentary Film Festival of 2001
invited to Yamagata Int'l Documentary Film Festival of 2001
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