Why Documentaries?

One of the most powerful ways to chronicle the past and the present is to observe and treasure the stories around us, whether it be by film, music, literature or art. To document a story is to engage with it and, in the process, learn about the conditions that lie beyond the scope of our understanding and expectations. As noted film scholar Bill Nichols remarks, documentaries allow us to “find stories or arguments, evocations or descriptions that let us see the world anew”, and not because documentaries represent reality, but because they are “a representation of the world we already occupy” (Nichols 3, 20)[1]. Documentaries do not merely record history: They also hope to challenge preconceptions and markedly change how we interact with the individuals and narratives that already constitute our surroundings.

As such, The East Foundation believes that the best way to thoroughly capture the diverse and unique stories that lie at the heart of the Korean diaspora is through the extensive development of documentary material. We hope to generate documentaries to preserve real life accounts of migration that are at risk of being lost and to share these incredible untold stories with a larger, worldwide audience. Though primarily film-based, these documentaries would also include, but would not be limited to: home recordings, musical performances, archived photos, live interviews, manuscripts, and other first-hand accounts. We plan to produce the documentaries through our own research and correspondence with local diaspora communities. The major source of our content, in fact, would arise through our interaction with members of these groups and in conjunction and collaboration with other visual artists, including our Fellows. These documentaries would highlight numerous idiosyncratic traditions and hardships, while simultaneously addressing notions of identity, inequality, and authenticity experienced by diverse Korean diaspora communities.

Our ultimate goal is to showcase this material with the public, primarily in specifically-themed exhibitions and presentations. As documentaries produced or co-funded by the Foundation, they will embody our mission to share the extraordinary yet overlooked narratives in the Korean migrant community. We firmly believe in the limitless potential these stories have to enact both awareness and change. In this way, we hope that the documentaries we produce could form the basis of even larger cinematic productions, perhaps in Hollywood and beyond.

[1] Nichols, Bill. Introduction to Documentary. Indiana University Press, 2017.