Yi Seung-jun’s “Crossing Beyond” – 2018 Busan Film Review

Park Yoon-jung (left, who goes by Marissa Brandt in the United States) and several teammates from the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. (still courtesy of the Korean Film Council)

Putting together a documentary that represents the scope of a large international event such as the Winter Olympics is daunting no matter what the language. It is even more so when it is tapped is the official project. Such was the case for Yi Seung-jun’s “Crossing Beyond,” the documentary for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics that made its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival. The director’s decision to feature a few key subjects and sprinkle their stories throughout has been a tried and true narrative for other documentaries. But in this case, the approach was a bit too ambitious and audacious, as if there were too many options for the filmmaker to show how these athletes have “crossed beyond” in both physical and figurative ways, and then attempt to have all their stories feed into how international sport brings everybody together.

Still, there is a lot to like about the film. If only each of the subjects had been granted his or her own full documentary, particularly given their respective quests to be “the first.” The first British snowboarder to potentially medal at any Winter Olympics (Billy Morgan). The first to represent Afghanistan in the Winter Olympics (Sayed Alishah Farhang and Sajjad Husaini). The first to try and repeat as a medalist in one of the newest winter Olympic sports, women’s ski jumping (Daniela Iraschko-Stolz). The first from Ghana to compete in skeleton (Akwasi Frimpong). An athlete selected for the first-ever unified Korean women’s ice hockey team (Park Yoon-jung, whose name as a Korean American adoptee is Marissa Brandt.  Their respective stories were so compelling that “Crossing Beyond” could have easily been turned into a five-part series for television.