A review about the film Megumi by Chrysanthi Nigianni.
In 1977, on her way back home from school, a 13-year-old Japanese girl, Megumi, was abducted by the North Korean spies. Mirjam van Veelen’s film of the same title moves in-between the genre of documentary and drama. The film can be seen as an emotional testament to the experience of loss and love, as well as a political claim about the right to life perceived as the right to be free to imagine a future.
Megumi is a personal tragedy yet deeply political since it ends with a tension between two nations. It is an intimate journey of loss, recovery and hope, always already ‘written’ within the political field of international conflicts and diplomacy. Starting as ‘a film within a film’ event, the camera becomes the eye that records historical facts, the mute interlocutor, the listener that encourages the family and the teacher to narrate, repeat and thus re-produce this story of loss and hope.
Moving in between different scenarios of what could have happened to Megumi for the last 30 years (the Korean authorities claim she committed suicide, while the family prefers the version that Megumi got married and has a family), this film becomes an exploration of the mystery of life itself, as an ongoing story of hope, belief and love. The use of mediated images of landscape (e.g. the sea, the forest) opens up and binds tightly the subjective experience of an individual life to the world. Far from being a dark tale about trauma, this documentary re-affirms life as being primarily about hope and faith for the future. Megumi is not absent but fully present in this story: an elusive figure that prays over an ideal future: “…in my ideal of the future I hope to bind together my talents, my dreams and reality” state Megumi’s words at the beginning of the film.
Dr Chrysanthi Nigianni
Visiting Lecturer in Sociology, University of East London