TIFF 2021: Korean-Canadian filmmaker explores internet suicide pacts

·2 min read
Ahn So-yo and Kim Jae-rok in "Together"

Korean-Canadian filmmaker brought his short film Together to the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), a result Albert Shin learning about the phenomenon of “internet suicide pacts,” specifically linked to Korea’s high suicide rate.

For about five years before his film In Her Place was released in 2014, as Shin had been working on the script for that film, he was researching these suicide pacts where strangers were finding each other on message board and decide to “commit suicide together.”

In Together, we just see two people, a young woman and an older man, who are staying in a motel room together. We don’t know anything about them, much like they don’t know anything about each other.

“It was really important that I didn't sensationalize this idea or trivialize it, but also rationalize it,” Shin said to Yahoo Canada. “I just wanted it to be about, how do we put ourselves, as [viewers], in the room with these strangers.”

“Just trying to make a comment on the fragility of all this and how things can zig and zag, and just one little turn in the alchemy of something can really change everything. It can save your life, maybe.”

Shin wrote the script with actors Ahn So-yo and Kim Jae-rok in mind and he also liked the idea of “playing with expectations” seeing these two people together.

“When you see a younger woman and a man meet in a motel room, you can tell they're strangers, is there a different element or different component to why they're meeting, as opposed to what it turns out to be?” Shin explained.

“They’re different people, they come from different places, and especially in a culture like Korea, where it's very homogenous,”

There’s a simplicity to how this story is told that’s a refreshing way to tell a relatively complex story, but at one particular moment in time.

“I wanted it to be life affirming even though it's a film about ending life.” Shin said. “It wasn't a soapbox movie by any stretch of the imagination, so it wasn't me trying to project a very specific message.”

“The message really is how unique and fragile we all sort of are in this world and how unique and fragile life is, and our experiences and what those experiences mean to our lives.”

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) runs until Sept. 18 with both in-person and digital screenings of films.

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