The story behind this film......
Heyjin, a Buddhist monk in Seoul, Korea, met and supported the first “grandmother” to testify publicly about the plight of the “comfort” women, who were taken from their homes and forced into sexual slavery for Japanese soldiers during WWII. After this first testimony was made several hundred women contacted Heyjin about their forced sexual slavery at the hands of the Japanese government during WW II. Many of the women were homeless and had struggled all those years to support themselves. Heyjin then helped develop a center for these women, The House of Sharing, which housed women who had no place to live. The women created a museum there to share the story of the comfort women with the world.
Heyjin asked these women what they wanted or needed. Many said they had never gone to school and they would like that experience. So Heyjin put an ad in a local paper for teachers, and among those who showed up was an art teacher. These grandmothers began to paint their experiences.
In 2000, Robert Levering made a business trip to Seoul, during which time he met Heyjin, who had been helping the comfort women since 1991. Heyjin wanted to bring the women’s artwork to the United States. Robert came home and called me up and asked if Iris Arts would be the fiscal sponsor for this project.
The story of Kim Duk Soon
In 2001, Heyjin and Soon Duk Kim, one of the former comfort women, now affectionately called “grandmother,” came to the United States to tour with their artwork. They had shows in New York, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On the last night in San Francisco, they were here the curriculum development organization Facing History and Ourselves had a workshop for community teachers to show them how to use artwork, such as the comfort women’s, to teach history. In the middle of the workshop Soon Duk Kim went from painting to painting describing what the art reflected, as well as her experience as a young woman being taken from her home.
I followed her and filmed her tour of the gallery. About three months later, a representative from Facing History and Ourselves called to ask me if I would take an intern. My thought was to make a 90-second film for her class. But as I began reviewing the material, I became intrigued with how to tell this story in a way that the viewer could stay with it. I decided to use the comfort women’s artwork to tell the story of one woman, Soon Duk Kim; and to have the narrative follow her experience from being taken from her homeland, Korea during WW II, up to 2000 with her work as a global activist. She explained her motivation - so “this terrible thing will never happen to anyone again.”