Between Stillness and Speed: Dahee Jeong’s Masterclass at Animateka Festival 2023 (GoCritic! Review)

Dahee Jeong at Animateka Festival 2023

Dahee Jeong smiles sweetly. Igor Prassel, director of the Animateka Festival, introduces her to the audience at the Slovenian Cinematheque. Twice featured in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, Dahee Jeong has won a Grand Prix Crystal at Annecy, and is currently a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She has just come back from giving a workshop in Nova Gorica. We will see the results at the closing ceremony. She says her first words: “Animation is making friends all over the world”. 

Throughout the lecture, Dahee weaves the lines of her biography, process, thoughts and filmography. A strong self-reflective philosophy is visible throughout all of her work. Fittingly, she shares with us a scheme translating her thought process. On four opposite sides, we see the words: audience, projection, image, and screen. In the middle, between them, the words immobility and mobility are represented in a loop, with each having an arrow pointing at the other. These ideas pop up throughout all her films and while a little cryptic on its own, the scheme works as a great guide to her work.

Dahee introduces us to the first main idea permeating her work - its relationship to the audience. She grew passionate about animation and film while watching Zbigniew Rybczyński’s ‘Tango’, as well as Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Shirin’, for the first time. In these films, she says, there’s an audience watching the film, and we are watching the audience. She brings up a Kiarostami quote: “Cinema is only half made on screen; the other half is made in the viewer’s mind.”

This contact with international cinema inspired her move to France, where she was able to visit the Abbey of Fontevraud residency as a student. Dahee shows us her pictures of the light projected over the confining walls of the Abbey, escaping through its small windows. The building used to be a nunnery and a prison. We can feel the connection between her research process and her personal search for freedom. She tells us that “animation is about creating with light”, and that it is not a tactile thing. ‘La Chambre Noire’ is a presentation film for the Abbey. It is a playful exercise on light and shadow, with clear inspiration on the magic lantern. 

As different as her films can look from each other, Dahee’s research process is stable: photo research, sketchbook drawings, and poetic, written notes on a subject. Once the idea is fixed, she further develops the concept until she is ready to choose which material to work with. As a student at ENSAD and l’école de l’image of Poitiers her experimentalism was encouraged. We can see it in the way she manipulates video and materials uncompromisingly, searching for the right images to express her ideas. Her thought process molds the images and never the other way around.

After her studies, Dahee moved back to Korea, where she produced and directed ‘Man on the Chair’ and ‘The Empty’. Both films are very strongly connected to the opposition between mobility and immobility. In ‘Man on the Chair’, Dahee was inspired by a strange recurring thought that her inner self could get out of her body and wander around the house, inhabiting the inside of its objects instead. In ‘The Empty’ Dahee proposes a room where the whole space rotates around the door hinge, as the door itself remains still. The walls are rotating as the door remains unbothered. The whole space is continuously transforming between inside, outside, and inside again.

The Empty

In her exhibition ‘Paper Light Ghost’, made for a Prada event, we can see her play on the concept of screens. The exhibition retroactively thinks about Dahee Jeong’s films, in a sequence of different site-specific installations. The table setting from ‘The Empty’ is presented to us as a still life in a museum, as the clip from the film plays from inside a painting frame. From the same film, the scene where the wall rotates on the hinge, instead of the door, seems a lot trippier when projected over the entirety of a real-life room. There is a light animated over a curtain, slowly crossing the space, that brings us back to ‘La Chambre Noir’. Frames from the films are shown as a sequence of printed pictures parallel to each other, sticking out of the wall from the side, creating a different way to experience animation.

Dahee Jeong, Paper, Light, Ghost Exhibition Still (via

‘Movements’, Dahee’s last film, thinks about time, and its feature speed, still connected to the concepts of mobility and immobility. Humans, plants and animals all walk through space and experience it differently. A tree takes 12 seconds to walk two steps, while the dog character takes ⅓ of a second. It brings her back to how speed is relative, and how in Korea people will complain to her that she works too slowly, while in Europe people will remark the opposite. 

Dahee Jeong closes her Masterclass with a few pictures of her upcoming project. It will be her first international co-production and her first time working with a larger team. ‘Society of Clothes’ will be a short film co-production between Miyu Productions, Between the Picture and the NFB. 

contributed by: Natália Azevedo Andrade

(cover photo: Dahee Jeong at Animateka Festival 2023: Photo: Andrej Firm)

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