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  • Brandon MacMurray

Sarajin Review

Sarajin dir. Justin Kim WooSok

Sarajin tells the story of an immigrant family in Alaska, where patriarch DongSu Kim works as a fisherman for snow crabs.

There is a critical moment in Sarajin where the captain is teaching DongSu how to use the radar to fish.

“Now when you’re driving, you hear "bing bing bing", but when you get on crab you hear "boom, boom".”

“Now when I hear that I get on the intercom and I go to the crew "standby" and "let it go"”

“If you’re late you’ve missed it.”

This scene works as a perfect metaphor for the situation DongSu finds himself in - he has gone five weeks without pay. The viewer can almost hear the repetitive reverberations of the “binging" sound, the sound made when using the radar before landing on a crab, as DongSu is stuck in a holding pattern. He waits day after day for the Alaska Department of Fishing to open the fishery and for snow crab season to start. The English translation of the title of the short says it all - Sarajin is based off of the Korean word for "disappearing." It apparent the crabs have left due to climate change.

This short film leaves you waiting for the “boom” of the story. How long is too long to wait for the crabs to come? When will DongSu hear the “boom” in his life and decide that it is time to chase the American dream a different way? His to stay is clear as he tells his wife JaeJeong “the ocean will never fail us." You feel for DongSu, as he struggles to provide for his family, pleading with JaeJeong to have some faith in him. You can feel the look of disappointment on her face; there is a cultural expectation as the eldest child to send money home and she hasn’t been able to do that.

Director and co-writer of Sarajin, Justin Kim WooSok, uses his own research gathered in Alaska - where last year 10 billion snow crabs disappeared from the Bering Sea - and creates a situation of potential displacement for an immigrant family, to foster empathy in the viewer. One wonders if DongSu will hear the “boom," and "let the net go" so to speak, and finally leave Alaska and take up JaeJeong’s sisters offer to stay in Atlanta. Or will DongSu continue to wait in the "binging" of his life until it's too late?

This is all brought to a head in a tender conversation in a dimly lit room over dinner. DongSu struggles to get out the bad news, JaeJeong seems lovingly determined for him to not have to say them. She's already guessed what he's about to say. The expressions on both of DongSu and JaeJeong's faces guide the conversation almost more than words do. There isn't a doubt about how they feel as they contemplate what's to come.

Sarajin premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is a part of Indeeds Rising Voices campaign, an initiative set up to discover and invest in BIPOC filmmakers and storytellers. It is qualified for the live action short category of the 2024 Academy Awards.



The short end of the stick: The inferior part, the worse side of an unequal deal

When it comes to cinema and the Oscars it always feels like short films and getting the short end of the stick. Lack of coverage, lack of predictions from experts and an afterthought in the conversation. With this site we hope to change that, highlighting shorts that stick with you, predictions, and news on what is happening in the world of shorts. 

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