History is a mutating entity. It mutates, because every day there occurs thousands of events of historical significance – few of them is open for world to know and the rest are secluded and stay under wraps. History is a mutating entity, because it’s based on perspectives and there occurs shift in perspectives every now and then.
And History is a mutating entity, for it keeps getting rewritten whenever ‘what-has-stayed-under-wraps’ emerges out for world to know and see.
Every such emergence brings out stories of unsung heroes and Movies play a significant role in bringing these stories into bright light. ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ etc. stand as perfect examples for this.
‘A Taxi Driver’ – a South Korean Movie released in 2017, is an addition to the not-so-long-list of shining examples. A beautifully crafted movie based on the Gwangju uprising that took place in South Korea in early 80s and how a Taxi Driver became an accidental hero. (Something that I didn’t know until I watched this movie and read about it later. His real name may not be that).
I am writing this piece, because of the relevance it holds to the times that we live in.
The movie speaks of a pro-democratic uprising that took birth in Gwangju against the martial law imposed by South Korean Government. The demonstration against the government by the student group was later supported by local citizens but only to be oppressed by the military. The 9 day rebellion-and-oppression exercise witnessed an estimated death toll of 600.
However, Gwangju was quarantined during this period. Government had ensured that there is no outflow of information – in writing, in pictures or any other form. The entire uprising episode was being projected to the rest other parts of South Korea and world as “rebellion instigated by Communist sympathizers and rioters”. Death tolls were misreported and falsely projected, so as to make the world believe that it’s the army men who are getting killed by the civilians. This had helped the Government earn sympathizers across the nation.
It was not until a German Journalist by name ‘Jürgen Hinzpeter’ smuggled himself into Gwangju, videotaped the real events and broadcasted it to the rest of the world, that the perceptions changed.
And He couldn’t have done so without the help of a Taxi driver who agrees to drive him into the town, for the hefty bill that the reported had promised to pay. The government sympathizer that he is, the driver’s perception about the uprising sees a seismic shift after he reaches the town and witnesses the holocaust. He then decides to stand by the reporter and ensures his safe return to Seoul along with the videotaped evidence of the military violence. He becomes the accidental hero.!
The beauty about ‘A Taxi Driver’ is the light hearted narrative set against a violent backdrop. In spite of being based on historical account, it hasn’t dressed itself into a ‘history movie’. The movie progresses through the evolving chemistry between the German reporter who doesn’t speak Korean and the taxi driver who’s English is ‘a-little-better-than-worse’. This has helped the movie in being both entertaining and engaging. Hence, it’s no wonder that ‘A Taxi Driver’ is amongst the highest grossing movies in South Korean Industry.
‘Song Kang‑Ho’ (I have watched most of his movies, yet find it difficult to type in his name without seeking help from Google) is as impressive as ever. Playing the role of the taxi driver, he effortlessly slips into the role and made me empathize with his character. His list of ‘impressive’ movies has continued to grow.
We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it deals with ‘collective perception’ on a very lighter note. In a subtle manner, it tells us how entire/ most parts of the nation/world could have a collective perception about truth only to be proven otherwise. It tells us how, it’s not so right to have an opinion on a provincial issue based on our telescopic views. Telescopic views are influenced on others perceptions. A first-hand account ‘might’ make you realize that your long held opinion was not a right one.
The movie does all this without being preachy.
We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’ because it tells a beautiful tale. We need movies like ‘A Taxi Driver’, because it might help us build a beautiful and better place to live in 🙂