If the anger of youth has no way out, what would young people do? “Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno” shows two crazy students using their instruments to fight against this corrupted world. What they do in this documentary reflects the problem of Korean society, which makes this film pretty unique.
“Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno” screened at the New York Asian Film Festival
The documentary is about to two college students, who form a punk band called Bamseom Pirates. They use trash, loud and noisy instruments as a tool to express their anger. They use lyrics to make fun of conservative Korean society. However, when they appear on social movements more often and the closer they touch the most sensitive topics in Korea, trouble starts coming their way.
The director Yoonsuk Jung perfectly uses Bamseom Pirates’ music material to create a chaotic feeling with a kind of brutal beauty. In this documentary, he never balances the sound. This lack of balance is not quite comfortable, and it represents inequality in the modern society. Their music and scream combines with North Korea promo videos, allowing audience to taste the absurdity they want to express. These footage and editing make Bamseom Pirate’s image so vivid, and viewers can easily find connection with them. The director turns the loud punk music into a vessel that triggers everyone’s emotion, and that is an incredible accomplishment.
When it comes to the music and members themselves, it’s also very interesting to watch/listen. They’re angry about everything, so they use uncommon ways to show their rage. Shouting, playing music, inviting audience to be on stage, they actually perform a kind of interactive modern art in the dark corners of Korea. When they are asked what they are angry about, both of them are unsure. They reveal the same rage and confusion that is deep inside all youths’ heart. But normal people are too afraid to express it out loud. So when viewers watch this documentary, they actually see the emotions that are oppressed in Korea.
People in Korea are oppressed, so Bamseom Pirates choose sensitive topics to liberate everyone. However, the more sensitive content they pick up, the more controversy follow as in the instance where their friend is asked whether they’re loyal to North Korea. All the jokes seem to be crazy because people and government don’t understand their humor and become furious. It allows band members to rethink their music and their own existence.
The situation reminds me that there is also a similar scene in Taiwan. During the 1990s, there was a rebel punk band in Taiwan, LTK Commune. The reason they made music was not for love of music, but being on stage. They used extreme performance to show their dissatisfaction to this world. The band members played weird drama, smashed around, and even gave themselves enema in their early careers. They were the most notorious band at the time. But they are also one of the most legendary, and influential band in Taiwan indie music in the last twenty years. There is a documentary called “LTK”(爛頭殼), which records their behavior and changes at that era.
Both Bamseom Pirates and LTK commune are pretty rebellious to the conservative society, and their documentaries provide precious materials about them. They all express their upset to this world, which allows the audience to know the dark side of the place they live. And both the documentaries of the bands capture their rage and the obstacles they encounter. But the problems that the bands have are completely different. Bamseom Pirates endures outer stress from the society, and LTK face the conflicts and transformation of its members.
The similarities and differences between two documentaries show that the wrath of young people is universal, but it also varies in different time and space. “Bamseom Pirates Seoul Infern”o is not only a documentary about a band, but it is also a portrait of Southern Korea. Through the punk music, viewers witness a unique world that people can’t see on shimmering Korean media. This unique world is violent, dark but charming in some aspects. That’s the reason why Bamseom Pirates Seoul Inferno is one of a kind.