[Delaying 2020 24th Seoul Human Rights Film Festival]
The world is now extremely unsettled due to COVID-19. While many events are being delayed or canceled, we announce a tentative delay of 24th Seoul Human Rights Film Festival, which was originally planned to be held in June. We feel sad to postpone the festival right after the announcement of our domestic film selection. However, we’d like to talk about the circumstances we are facing now, and picture a world in which everyone could be safe and sound.
It seems everything is paused. People feel afraid that themselves might be the ones who make others ill. People feel nervous when others move around freely. Though people are eager to go out and take trips, they promise a next time. Most outdoor events are being delayed or canceled. Every morning, people search ‘COVID-19’ on the Internet and check the number of patients and death tall. There’s nothing much to do, but just wait and see when everyday life could be enjoyed again.
In the meantime, we came to an important question. Were we seeing this terrible scene with mere statistics? Were we just counting the number of patients all around the world? We acknowledged there’s so many people, relations, scenes and events that are unseen. We couldn’t just applause the ‘efficient bureaucracy’ of South Korea, since there are people whose private lives have been excessively digged up. We couldn’t just be proud of people who practice ‘social distancing’ in an orderly manner, since there are people who have been inevitably infected in their cramped quarantines. We couldn’t just feel convenient with the quick home-delivery services, since there are laborers who passed out after being forced to excessive work.
What about other countries? Some countries estimate the patients’ life expectancy and then give priority to patients who can live longer. What a horrible situation. While selecting the international films and contacting the directors and distributors, we felt very uncomfortable to write emails to those devastated countries. Every week, our festival activists had to have meetings with anxiety. So we had to contemplate what we need to do right at this moment. What kind of role could SHRFF assume? Is it just ‘screening’ of the films in 24th festival? What should we do in the middle of all this chaos?
All the suffer we see and experience in this horrible situation may seem unfamiliar, but in fact, they’re not. The people who were most vulnerable in disasters we’ve experienced so far - big fires, economic crisis, earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear incidents - are still the most vulnerable people. The world we are facing now is bringing the reality of them up to the surface. When we say “We have to fight with COVID-19”, we should keep in mind it’s not just a matter of statistics. For sure, it’s important to strive to reduce the number of patients, but we also have to ‘overcome’ the situation that people ‘unequally experience’ the pain caused by the contagion. We also have to ‘overcome’ the very system in which everything should be repressed for the sake of ‘safety’.
Therefore, we’re delaying the festival not just because we have to “be careful”. We’d like to emphasize that we cannot prevent or overcome the disasters that will come after COVID-19, if we just stick to individual “be careful” strategy and do nothing else. Surely, it’s important that we refrain from doing something. But, in addition, we’d like to contemplate on ‘what we need to do’ to face this situation and overcome it. Therefore, even though SHRFF will meet the audiences out in the open in autumn, we’re planning to prepare an online platform where we could gather together and share our thoughts before the outdoor screening. We’ll reflect over what we’ve encountered so far in this COVID-19 situation, and give thoughts to what we will face in the near future. We wish everybody could be wholly safe one day, and hope for your health and peace.
March 31st, 2020
Seoul Human Rights Film Festival