"Treeless Mountain is simply one of the best films about childhood ever made."
Melissa Anderson, Village Voice
The treeless mountain is in fact not a mountain but a rubbish tip from whch vnatage point seven-year-old Jin and little sister Bin keep a look-out for their mother. She had once brought them here, a bus ride from Seoul, to their aunt's. Exactly why, we the viewers never get to know because the film is uncompromisingly narrated from the perspective of the two girls. Apparently, the mother is looking for her errant husband in the USA. When she left, she gave the girls a piggy bank, promising them that when it was full she would return. With the aunt drinking too much and finding them a nuisance, the children are left to their own devices. They collect and grill grasshoppers for sale so that the piggy bank will fill up all the quicker.
In documentary style, using a hand-held camera and dispensing with music, the film accompanies the girls at their level. Only when it was time to shoot did So Yong Kim give the girls their script and their instructions. "I tried to capture the two girls' spontaneous interactions and natural moments as much as possible. Due to this particular nature of working with the young cast, the most challenging part of the post-production was cleaning up the sound. It was very difficult to edit my voice out of all the tracks." But the effort paid off and the critics raved about the girls' ability to act naturally in front of the camera.
Treeless Mountain was inspired So Yong Kim's own youth: "My mother divorced our father and left us with our grandparents on a rice farm. She went to America to find a better life for herself and to build a future for her children. At the time of these events, we were too young to understand and our mother did not tell us what was happening. I began writing the film to search for certain lost memories from this period of my life and also as a letter to my mother."
Born 1968 in South Korea, SO YONG KIM migrated to the United States when she was twelve years old. She studied painting, performance and video art at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she graduated with a master's in fine arts (MFA). Lives and works in New York in a partnership with husband Bradley Rust Gray. He produces her films, she produces his, and they usually edit the films together.