In Between Days

Friday, November 24th, 2006 | All Things, Film

In a new collaboration between IFP, its magazine Filmmaker, and MoMA’s Department of Film and Media, the museum screened the five nominees for the “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” award from November 24–27, 2006. The nominees were selected in October by the editorial staff of Filmmaker and Jytte Jensen, MoMA’s film curator. The five nominees represent the best independent films on the 2006 festival circuit that have yet to find a distributor for theatrical distribution.

The theater was also in the midst of a Roberto Rossellini retrospective, so the lobby was bursting with filmgoers. Rossellini on Paper, an accompanying exhibition of posters, family photographs, and correspondence documenting the Italian filmmaker’s career, is on display in the lobby galleries through April 7, 2007.

In Between Days is the story of Aimie (Jiseon Kim), a newly arrived Korean immigrant, who falls in love with her best and only friend, Tran (Taegu Andy Kang). The film follows the sweetly awkward friendship between the teenagers, from easy camaraderie, to petty jealousies, to tentative sexual experimentation, to heartbreak. Not much happens in this slight 82 minute film — and what does happen seems to taken an awful long time — but for those willing to approach the film as a character study, rather than a strict narrative, it has its rewards. The extended silences are more frequent, and weigh more heavily than any of the (mostly Korean) dialogue. Ponderous, lingering close-ups on the actors’ faces, and long tracking shots offered intimate and naturalistic portrayals of the characters’ emotional states. When Tran inevitably falls for a more Americanized Korean girl, Aimie’s hurt and dejection is made clear without any expositioning dialogue. The remarkably expressive performances of the two leads was all the more impressive when I learned at director So Yong Kim’s post-screening Q&A that neither Jiseon nor Taegu had ever acted in a film before.

One could hear the crunch of snow beneath Aimie’s trudging boots, and almost feel the chill and isolation cloud off the screen during the wintry shots. Despite these strengths, I imagine that a wider audience may be a little maddened by the film’s drearily slow pacing and lack of clear resolution.

The is the first feature from So Yong Kim, who emigrated from Pusan to the United States. In Between Days won a special jury prize for Independent Vision at Sundance earlier this year, and has had a healthy festival run internationally, showing in Pusan, Toronto and Hong Kong among others. So Yong wrote the film with her producer/husband Bradley Rust Gray, who was also at the MoMA that night, accompanying his now significantly pregnant wife. After the film, So Yong described the evolution of the story: how the initial draft was more autobiographical, and much, much longer, spanning decades of Aimie’s life. From there, it was a year and a half editing process to distill the film to the short period of time covered in the finished product. Similarly, editing down the film footage itself was a monumental task. Although the film was shot in just over 3 weeks in Toronto, the shoestring budget forced the director and crew to live with Jiseon, during which they filmed her constantly, often in intense close-up, resulting in about 66 hours of total coverage. Only 2% of the footage made it into the final cut.

It was most interesting to hear how production logistics shaped the finished product. So Yong originally conceived the film around a more Americanized teenage girl, with a Goth sensibility — hence the title of the film, taken from one of my favorite Cure songs. After conducting a series of casting calls in New York and Los Angeles, So Young finally discovered the young woman who would be Aimie behind a coffeeshop counter in New Jersey’s Koreatown. Jiseon Kim was then newly arrived to this country, and So Young rewrote the Aimie role to accommodate her. In addition, the story was originally set in Los Angeles in the heat of summer, but since Jiseon was only available to film during her winter break from FIT (where she’s a current student), the locale was moved to Toronto in the dead of January. The character rewrites and relocations add an entirely new dimension to the story, with outsider Aimie’s quiet alienation and the bleak, icy urban landscapes underscoring the crushing disappointment of first heartbreak.

On November 29, Filmmaker magazine selected Steve Barron’s Choking Man for the “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” award at the 16th Annual Gotham Awards. NYC TV will broadcast the awards show on Wednesday, December 6 at 9:00PM and Saturday, December 9 at 10:00PM.

Hot dog vendor in front of the MoMA theaters:

MoMA Hot Dogs

Walking home, past Carnegie Hall.

Carnegie Hall

Yesterday I got so old
I felt like I could die
Yesterday I got so old
It made me want to cry

In Between Days,” The Cure (1985)

There are 4 Comments ... In Between Days

December 6, 2006

come back come back
don’t walk away
come back come back
come back today
come back come back
why can’t you see?
come back come back
come back to me…

December 6, 2006

I still haven’t been to the chicken & rice guy across 6th Avenue. We should go after a screening.

December 6, 2006

The CBS/Deutsche Bank public park from which I shot the the hot dog vendor photo was teeming with people chowing down on the famed chicken and rice platters.

January 11, 2007


#15. In Between Days* So Yong Kim, U.S./Canada/South Korea
(*Currently without U.S. distribution)

Go for it ...