Jeffrey’s Cinema #21

Jeffrey’s Cinema! This time with:

Manshin: Ten Thousand Spirits, 2013
Directed by Park Chan-kyong
104 minutes
In Korean with English subtitles


In line with the exhibition Four Months, Four Million Light Years by Sara Sejin Chang (Sara van der Heide) Jeffrey Babcock decided to show the documentary Mansion: Ten Thousand Spirits. Jeffrey writes: “the documentary traces the life of a woman who is today considered to be the most regarded shaman in South Korea – Kim Keum-hwa—who was born in 1931. It goes back to her experiences as a child, and as we follow her life, we also see the historical events of Korea, including the War the United States had there in the 1950s, which decimated the entire country.


The film goes into the intentions and meaning of Korean shamanism—a possession ritual called ‘gut’ where a shaman connects to people who have died violently by accident or in disasters. Their spirits are still in trauma and abandoned, so gut rituals attempt to make connection and heal the wound. Shaman Kim Keum-hwa held rituals for personal traumas, but for instance also for those massacred in a village during the war. In Korea female shamans are deemed capable of accommodating as many as ten thousand spirits in their rituals. The documentary also explains how Shamanism was viewed in Korean culture. That since the arrival of Christianity it was treated like witchcraft and became more and more marginalized. Director Park Chan-kyong, the brother of leading Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), wanted to tell the history of twentieth-century Korea from the perspective of a female Shaman. In the film he mixes documentary footage with animation and re-enactments of shaman im Keum-hwa’s life, making  Manshin; Ten Thousand Spirits anything but a standard documentary!