Actually a thesis film for the MFA Degree of the Film Program in the School of Arts in Columbia university, “The Loyalist” is one of the most impressive shorts I have seen the latest years, a fact proven by the plethora of screenings and awards it received all over the world.
A North Korean general visits his talented daughter at a prestigious Swiss school to test her loyalty towards her motherland. An outstanding singer, with a promising future, she dreams of studying in America. However, her father, instigated by the loyalty to his regime, has other plans for her. As the two go on a trip to spend some time together, a cat-and-mouse game begins.
This cat-and-mouse game is the main ingredient of the film, as it extends to a number of aspects. Between father and daughter, between father and his higher ups, between filial love and loyalty to the country, between the East and the West, and between progress and tradition. Kang Min-ji presents this concept in very powerful fashion, taking full advantage of both her own editing, and the excellent performances of Kwon Hyuk-poong as The General, and Jung Woo-rim as his daughter. Particularly the former is excellent in portraying the psychological struggle resulting from the aforementioned aspects, with Jung mostly reacting to his performance, highlighting, though, the great chemistry of the two.
Dan Browhan’s “polished” cinematography suits the aesthetics of the film quite nicely, with his mostly grey and dark tones intensifying the thriller aspect of the film.
“The Loyalist” is a great effort by a newcomer who shows great promise, and is a short that could easily be adapted into a full feature. I would really like to see Kang Min-ji shooting a psychological thriller with sociopolitical implications in the future.