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Soon-Mi Yoo

Artist & Award Winning Filmmaker,
Chair, Film/Video Department MassArt

Born in South Korea, Soon-Mi Yoo studied German Literature at Yonsei University before earning an MFA in Photography at the Massachusetts College of Arts where she is currently a member of the Film/Video faculty.

Yoo’s films embrace and expand avant-garde and essayistic modes of non-fiction cinema, reopening forgotten, often suppressed, chapters of modern history in order to explore the still unresolved conflicts and collective memories that continue to haunt and define the Korean Peninsula. In short works such as DANGEROUS SUPPLEMENT and SSITKIM: TALKING TO THE DEAD Yoo defines a lyrical mode of essay film that uses poetic forms to mine the deeper archaeological and emotional levels that standard histories are unable to engage.

Yoo’s first feature film SONGS FROM THE NORTH looks differently at the enigma of North Korea, a country typically seen only through the distorted lens of jingoistic propaganda and derisive satire. Interweaving footage from her three visits to North Korea, together with songs, spectacle, popular cinema and archival footage, SONGS FROM THE NORTH tries to understand, on their own terms, the psychology and popular imaginary of the North Korean people and the political ideology of absolute love which continues to drive the nation towards its uncertain future. SONGS FROM THE NORTH reveals that to look closely and objectively at North Korea, a country that challenges our most fundamental assumptions about the human condition, is ultimately to question the meaning of freedom, love and patriotism.

Yoo’s films have screened at major international film festivals, including Locarno, Toronto, Hong-Kong, Taipei, Rio de Janeiro, the Viennale, Rotterdam, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Hamburg, Goteborg, FilmMadrid, Oberhausen as well as the Harvard Film Archive, the Centre Pompidou and MoMA.

SONGS FROM THE NORTH won the prestigious Golden Leopard for Best First Feature at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival, the prize for Best First Feature at DocLisboa 2014 and the Special Jury Prize at BAFICI 2015.