Opening 29 Oct 2009
In 1966 a group of Korean women, wearing their traditional costumes of long skirts and wide sleeves, landed at Hamburg airport. Germany’s hospitals needed qualified nurses; the Korean women were looking for a new life in a new world and for this they willingly left their old lives behind. In general, they were successful, well adjusted Gastarbeiter. Some married German men. They sent hard currency back to their families. As a tribute to them, a picturesque, authentic German village, Dogil Maeul, was built on the coast of South Korea. I can only confirm the press notes, which say the village is “indeed more German than Germany,” with red-tiled roofs, absolute cleanliness, Wurst and black bread.
This documentary film shows three successful Korean former nurses (Young-Sook, Chun-Ja and Woo-Za) who, after 30 years in Germany, have returned to Korea to retire in Dogil Maeul with their German husbands. Director Sun-Hyung Cho shows them repairing their houses, baking bread, complaining about the loud tourists on the weekends, visiting a temple to rub gold leaf on an image of Buddha, and crawling into a Korean sauna, built for smaller people than a 70-year-old German man. The German husbands accept their new country with humor. Their South Korean wives suffer the same reverse culture shock as everyone else who returns to the homeland after a long absence. The old country isn’t the same any more.
Director Sun-Hyung Cho is the 43-year-daughter of a Korean nurse who came to Germany in 1971. Her 2006 documentary Full Metal Village about the rock concert in Wacken Schleswig-Holstein was very successful, and I am pleased that Endstation der Sehnsüchte will open now. It is humorous, slyly revealing of human nature, and one of my top three favorite films at the 2009 Berlinale. I talked to a Korean woman next to me in the cinema. She said that it was the first time she had ever gone to the movies by herself, but she couldn’t miss this film. She could identify with all of it and definitely was not disappointed. (Becky Tan)