Seayoon Jeong, Sandra Philip
No good deed goes unpunished is perhaps a trite phrase for most, yet still holds true to this very day. You so often hear of good people doing great things, only to be somehow hurt directly, or indirectly because of their well-intentioned actions. It seems that the fate of the good is to suffer, and it feels like every day we learn something new has happened. A new travesty - a new hurt brought to light, not limited to the present, but the past as well. Seayoon Jeong's short film "Breaking the Silence" continues that dark trend by featuring Fran's story, a WW2 survivor being interviewed about her experiences during the war. In particular, her experience as a sex slave - a comfort girl. "Breaking the Silence" is a brutally sad film, and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
In the film, it's the early 1980s, and Fran's guest, Betty, is interviewing her about her experiences during the war. The cute little cassette recorder from the eighties sits on a table, and Fran is desperately trying to puff away on a cigarette to calm her nerves - to no avail. She has lung cancer and is not expected to live much longer, part of the reason she's agreed to tell her story. The tale begins with Fran becoming a nurse, and how proud she was to be able to serve. However, it all goes to hell when the hospital is attacked by soldiers who end up killing more than one hundred people. Fran is one of the survivors, and taken to a wooded camp - where things go from horrible to downright nightmarish. Fran is forced to become a comfort girl. An object who is only kept alive to be raped by soldiers - a sex slave. As I wrote above, Jeong's film is brutally sad and not for the emotionally faint of heart. And yet, it's a story that needs to be told, again and again. By the time the film concludes, we learn that almost half a million women, probably a lot more, suffered this fate during WW2 - and that the events of this film were finally recognized as a war crime in 1993.
For the most part, the real power of this short film comes from the core story. It's characters akin to any of those found in horror movies, but all the scarier because this really happened. Add to the mix, a nasty feeling of heartbreak, and you've essentially summed up the film. Now, I'm not implying "Breaking the Silence" doesn't also look and sound good, only that the visuals and style are in place to enhance the story being told - not overtake it.
The performances in "Breaking the Silence" are noteworthy in that they are very grounded, and not overly dramatic until a quick punch of intense drama is needed. Our leading ladies levelled performances directly contrast some of the more violent scenes in the film, making the more dramatic scenes that much more robust - while not being so far out there as to be unbelievable. The fear and terror conveyed by young Fran is enough to create a throat bubble in even the most unemotional of people. But again, it all comes back to the core of "Breaking the Silence," the fact this type of thing actually happened... and to be honest, it still does.
What more is left to write? "Breaking the Silence" is a fantastic short film that really knew how to push my emotional buttons. Adding to that, is the fact that this short film doubles as a reminder of things past, and triples as a cautionary tale to be heeded in the future. Human trafficking is still a huge problem throughout the world. Its stories like this that continue to help and stop desensitization; stories like this that help prevent the words "human trafficking" from becoming lost to the normality, of hearing them every day. Even though this is Fran's story, it also serves a much, much higher purpose. To the cast and crew, well done. Four and a half stars.