Director YIM’s first commercially funded film, Forever the Moment, is based around the true story of the South Korean Women’s handball team who came second to Denmark in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The first film about handball – a sport that I hadn’t heard of before last year London Olympics when people were snapping up tickets in the desire to see some Olympic action firsthand and details of the rules and history were being exchanged by people who like myself were new to the game – Forever the Moment is an entertaining film, strongest when the focus is on the troubled lives of the women themselves rather than on the on court action – although that might be because of my unfamiliarity with the game rather than any shortcoming of the film.
Much of the conflict and action off and on-court is a result of the tension between older players including Mi-Sook (Moon So-Ri) and Hae-Kyung (Kim Jung-Eun) and the younger ones, Oh Su-Hee (Jo Eun-Ji) and Bo-ram (Min-ji) as the new coach, Ahn Seung-pil (Uhm Tae-Woong) attempts to improve the team’s prospects by introducing new ‘Western’ style training to the women’s chagrin. Old bonds are reformed and new ones are formed as the women become united against the attempts of Seung-pil to dictate their diets, their training and relationships and victory becomes a possibility.
While Forever the Moment follows closely to the structure of the sports film, we are denied the moment of triumph with which such films generally end signifying the completion of the teams/protagonist’s trajectory from underdog to eventual victor overcoming seemingly unsurmountable odds in the process, instead the final image is a freeze frame of the women at the conclusion of the game – capturing a moment of loss reconfigured as triumph. While the team might come second, the women themselves are victorious in their negotiations of identity formation within a patriarchal society in which they are accorded secondary status – relegated to supporting roles unless contained within the domestic sphere as good wives/daughters. Director YIM offers identifiable characters whose lives may well seem overly melodramatic to some, but who are nonetheless authentic representations of a feminine identity still in the process of formation and whose resistance to patriarchal constraints is envisaged as a point of liberation through an attempt – however fractured it may be – of self-definition. Although Director YIM does not seem herself as a feminist director, the concern of the film with women’s struggle – in which sport functions as a metaphor for society as a whole – does offer glimpses of a feminist viewpoint if not aesthetic.
Whether sports films are your cup of team or not, Forever the Moment has a great deal to offer viewers, in both its quiet meditations on female identity off the pitch and frenetic reconstructions of key matches on the pitch. It is not my favorite film by Director YIM as I think her talents are better utilized in a smaller more independent features such as Fly Penguin(날아라 펭귄: 2009) and Rolling Home with a Bull (소와 함께 여행하는 법: 2010), when the emphasis is on character rather than action, but it was a smash hit in South Korea where it topped the box-office on its opening weekend. This commercial success was followed by critical success when Forever the Moment was awarded Best Film at the 29th Blue Dragon Film Awards in 2008.