Filmmaker gives ‘Blunt Edge’ to documentary

By Shardae Smith

Wonjung Bae said she may not be able to fully communicate with people in everyday life, but once she starts making a film she knows exactly how to get her point across. The 28-year-old film and video graduate student won the 2010 Directors Guild Student Film award for her 11-minute HD documentary, “Vera Klement: Blunt Edge,” in October.

The Directors Guild of America selects filmmakers who are African-American, Asian-American, Latino and/or female for its annual Student Film Awards, which are designed to honor, encourage and bring attention to outstanding minority and female film students, according to

its website.

Bae, who moved to the U.S. three years ago from North Korea, won the award for the Eastern Region, which included Columbia, in the woman’s category. She will be awarded $2,500 and will accept her award in New York City on Nov. 30.

For the documentary, Bae shadowed Chicago oil painter Vera Klement as she prepared for her 80th birthday and the

celebration of her latest work.

“She set up a camera in my studio so when I worked, the film was rolling,” Klement said. “It’s amazing. I think she captured something really deeply and personal.”

The short film follows Klement from when she conceives an idea for a new painting through its completion. It depicts a human figure holding itself surrounded by a bed

of blood.

Klement, a Holocaust survivor, said the painting is an homage to Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich as an attempt to memorialize his struggle with the Soviet regime when the Nazis took over Germany.

Bae said when she creates personal documentaries, she will sometimes live with her subjects for a few days and follow them without her camera to learn about their daily routine.

“Because these characters are artists, I’m very interested in their processes or some kind of focus,” Bae said. “So I tend to learn about my

subject first.”

According to Mary Novak, graduate program coordinator for the Film and Video Department, Bae’s accomplishments, along with those of other students in the department, show the program is credible and has produced accomplished filmmakers in the field.

“She’s a terrific filmmaker,” Novak said. “She is very tenacious, which I think [is] how she gets a lot of her good work. [Bae] really knows what she wants and she’s able to get it. We are extremely proud

of her.”

According to Bae, a filmmaker must be diplomatic and make his or her intentions clear from the beginning of the relationship with the subject.

“You can’t go in and out of this boundary of being a friend and being a filmmaker in terms of developing a relationship with the person,” Bae said.

Documentary filmmaking is unpredictable, according to Bae. She said she won’t ask her subjects to sign a consent form unless they approve the rough cut she lets

them review.

“I tend to make very personal documentaries,” Bae said. “It’s quite flattering for them because I don’t make a documentary, especially when it’s a portrait, that adorns a person. When you show them certain rooted statements about themselves, they tend to accept it.”

Bae said she hasn’t taken a controversial approach in her filmmaking. She describes her films as calm, silent and grounded.

“So far, I’ve been making documentaries about people [who] are artists or have an exceptional quality,” Bae said. “These people find their own principles.”

According to Bae most of her characters have been introverted people. If she decides to focus on an extrovert, she will definitely have to change her attitude, she said.

She said she’s preparing her next project to be a politically driven and socially

conscious documentary, although she said she doesn’t know if she will submit the project to any festivals.

“I need to make a good film first before I think about how to promote it,” Bae said.