Hacking the Culture: Migrant Dreams

By Lisa Vanderwyk

Min Sook Lee strives to create films that engage, excite and educate an audience; however, above all she strives to create films that inspire unity among people. Min Sook aims to accomplish this by sharing stories of human experience, to promote the importance of understanding and outreach.

At the Migrant Dreams instalment of the Hacking The Culture series, Min Sook expresses this vision to an audience composed of filmmakers, artists, and activists. She speaks fondly of the subjects of her videos, describing a deep respect for those whose experiences she documents. An initial viewing of her Mayworks Festival submission, “Migrant Dreams”, presents interviews so intimate that it becomes clear that the subjects return the respect to Min Sook. They too have faith in Min Sook’s vision; they have faith that she can create unity.

The film begins with dialogue from a female migrant worker from Mexico. “We work 10-12 hours a day- no break, no sitting”, she laments, above supplementing imagery of several women preparing meals in a tiny kitchen. The woman confesses that they come to Canada with the goal of earning money, but the mission quickly becomes focused on summoning “the will, the desire- the strength to go ahead.”

The imagery of the meal fades into more jovial visuals, including shots of the women joining hands and dancing about the tiny living space. However, a contrasting depiction of the household is presented when the women begin looking at photos. The music falls to the background as women turn their focus to pictures of their children, whom are growing up quickly in Mexico. One woman expresses a deep regret on behalf of the group, “everything is going to pass me by”- the children will be raised in Mexico while their mothers are away.

The pain in the mother’s hearts is expressed through shaky voices and watery eyes; however, they express that a greater piece of their hearts are filled with ambition. One woman describes the life she left in Mexico, where her homeless children slept on a bed of twigs and cardboard. The desire to provide a better quality of life for her children motivates her to remain working in Canada. “My plan was to come here and build my house”, she says- “and I built it.”

At the conclusion of the film, Min Sook regains the attention of an audience who had been so captivated by the honest and moving story. She shares the strategy that the film helped her develop, which necessitates working with her subjects, rather than creating a film around them. It is this ability to empathize with subjects that allows Min Sook to fully understand their struggle, and drives her to work towards lessening it. This true ability to understand the experiences of others helps Min Sook to connect with other humans; however, it is her ability to share these experiences with larger audiences that inspires a greater unity among humans.

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