Wednesday, April 8, 2009

"Old Partner", A Korean Documentary by Lee Chung-ryul Inspired by Pearl Buck

Excerpt from: John Glionna. "To a South Korean Farmer, this Cow was Sacred." Los Angeles Times, Mar 27, 2009.

"[Director Lee Chung-ryul] wanted to make a documentary about the beauty of simple things. To tell the story, he chose a farmer who preferred his devoted old cow over any modern tractor.

He was inspired by his own rural childhood and the novelist Pearl S. Buck, who nearly a century ago wrote of a farmer and cow she saw on a trip to Korea.

'She said it was the most beautiful scene she had ever witnessed,' says Lee, 42, a small man with a Beatles-style mop of hair. 'Now the cow's status has changed. They're no longer family members but seen as pieces of meat.'

For five years, he searched for the right relationship between man and beast. In 2002, he was introduced to Choi, who recently had been informed that his female ox's days were numbered. She had already lived far longer than most.

The pair's similarities astounded him: Nearly deaf with a malformed leg, the limping farmer was often forced to crawl across his rice fields. The staggering brown cow, which is never given a name, was no better off. Choi often groomed the skinny animal's diseased hide and fed her special gruel to keep her strength up.

For Lee, the pair seemed to have a secret pact: Keep working together or we'll both die.

In 2005, he began shooting what he saw as an intimate chronicle of the cow's final year."


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