Busan 2019: “This Is Not a Documentary 2” directors on film, politics, sequel


“This Is Not a Documentary 2” (이것은 다큐멘터리가 아니다 2) follows Cho Yeong-gwon, a local candidate for the underfunded Justice Party. This is Cho’s fourth election, he’s failed three times in 14 years, and he wonders if the journey is worth it as he has no money to spare. However, over time he has grown strong grassroots support through his advocacy for small local businesses, workers’ rights, and education. But is it enough to win against his much, much richer rivals?

Despite the serious subject matter, this is a very congenial documentary, and a lot of that has to do with the easy and hilarious chemistry between Cho and co-director Park Hong-yeol, who is constantly busting Cho’s chops. The thesis of the film is Cho’s perspective of helping everyone around him, and it’s clear that his hard work paid off dividends.

Directors Park (better known as a cinematographer, notably for Hong Sang-soo) and Hwang Da-eun appeared at the Oct. 7 screening of “This Is Not a Documentary 2” at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.  They participated in a Q&A session with the audience, who moments before applauded through the entirety of the credits.  Some of their comments, translated through an onstage interpreter, follow:

On what the film meant to the directors

Hwang: During the film, I worked on the plot, and I also pondered about what [the meaning of the word] “documentary” really was. I came to think that, if we hold the cameras by ourselves, the camera will be our audience.  That was how I came to hold the camera by myself.

Park: I first worked as a director of photography, so there were clear limitations in making the plot of the film.  The biggest change in our film, “This is not a Documentary 2,” is that I came to realize that politics really relate to our daily lives.  Thus, what we should depict in our film are politics that are closely related to our daily life. So, I tried to portray the campaign process of my friend, who turned out to be living in the same neighborhood as me.

(Ed. Note: Part 1 was released in 2005 as a 37-minute film and screened at the Seoul Independent Documentary Film Festival that year.)

On whether the plot would have changed had Yeong-gwon won the election

Hwang: I think that, even if the candidate won the election, our director Park Hong-yeol’s direction of the movie wouldn’t have changed much, and neither would have the politics of Yeong-gwon. The film would still concentrate on the politics of daily lives, and also the minor factors that our lives possess.

On why the scene of the GoPro on the hula hoop was used

Park: So I’ve actually worked as a director of photography for 20 years and my wife takes photography. What I noticed from her pictures was that she tries to depict how the world is viewed, through the lens of the camera. So I put in the last scene in order to imply that, some things cannot be seen by the eyes of human, and can only be seen by the eyes of the camera. This is in fact one our most important scenes.

On how the directors view the politics of today

Hwang: So briefly, when we asked Cho Yeong-gwon in the film what politics means to him, he replied that it is something similar to poetry.  He actually reads some poetry in his cafe in the last scene of the film. In the poetry, there are some beautiful metaphors, and I believe that the politics of reality should be just as a poetry itself. We always say that we want to live like it’s portrayed in poetry, but we all always fail to. So I believe that we should continue to live just as the poetry depicts.

Park: In the last scene, there is a scene of the campaign pledges that Yeong-gwon makes in his car, and I was really surprised to see people waving on the streets to Yeong-gwon. And this made me realize the politics is not a macro factor, it’s actually something that must be applied to our daily lives. The scene of people waving to him seems to reflect the fact that much has changed over the 14 years that Yeong-gwon has participated in politics.

On whether “This Is Not a Documentary 3” will be released

Park: If Yeong-gwon participates in the next election as well, we will release a third documentary.  This will not be about the candidate but rather about the candidate’s wife. Also apparently Hwang Da-eun and I, are partners, like she’s my wife. So what I want to portray in our next film are our human relationships, whether it’s between my wife and me, or whether it’s between my friends and me. And actually we’ve decided on this beforehand.

In our third film, I want to portray some things outside of reality and pull them into reality because this was what I failed to do while I was working as a director of photography on [Hong Sang-soo’s] “On the Beach at Night Alone.”

“This Is Not a Documentary 2” made its world premiere at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.