'Planet of Snail' is a documentary on how the world is perceived by a deaf-blind man. Michelle Hanna spoke to its director.
In Australia for the premiere of his film 'Planet of Snail' at the Antenna Documentary Festival in Sydney, director Seung-Jun Yi says South Koreans were not familiar with any public figures with disabilities apart from Helen Keller.
This motivated him to raise the profile of a South Korean man with a disability.
When Seung-Jun first came across deaf-blind man Young-Chan in a newspaper article, he then approached him and his wife Soon-Ho, who has a debilitating spinal condition.
Seung-Jun says the couple were initially reluctant to be filmed for fear of being treated with pity.
“They hate the way most of Korean media dealt with disabled people, because they have sympathy or overcoming hardships,” he explains.
“Most of Korean media focus(es) on those things. “
After Seung-Jun explained to the couple that he would treat them differently, they then saw the potential to raise the profile of deaf-blind people in Korea through the film, which also provided an opportunity to introduce some of their deaf-blind friends.
Seung-Jun says this was particularly important in a country where the deaf-blind community are an unknown demographic, as he says there is no research on deaf -blind people in South Korea.
After a two year process, the result is an empowering film of ability, life and love. The film was released in 2011 and has since won several international awards.
Seung-Jun Yi says he never expected the success of his film as he thought a tale of a deaf-blind man in a far-east province of South Korea was a 'double-niche', a “small story”.
However, he explains the film's success as it deals with universal stories of love and attitudes towards the world, which resonates with international audiences.
“Basically”, he says, “it is about a love story between a couple.”
Seung-Jun Yi will be present at a screenings of his film this week followed by question and answer sessions.