E J-Yong’s Behind the Camera (2013) is a doc-style film that offers an intriguing question; can an absent filmmaker direct a cast and crew over the internet via social media? The result is whimsical, amusing and more than a little disquieting. The premise is simple; E J-Yong (the character) has been commissioned to create a 10-minute short and decides to film a story about a director who will direct over Skype. In a satisfying twist of meta-proportions, E J-Yong the director does exactly the same, directing over Skype from LA. Starring a host of well-known actors from Korea such as Yoon Yeo-jeong, Kim Ok-vin and Oh Jeong-se, the film smartly utilises customary amateur aesthetics.
Despite this somewhat confusing premise, the action on-screen unfolds seamlessly, creating an experience that at times feels never ending and at ironically at the same time far too short. It’s a difficult film to encapsulate in a few pithy words as it skilfully negotiates fundamental questions of realism and what we perceive as narrative film. Much of the script is improvised, a fact that becomes apparent at the start of the film, when the cast finds out that E J-Yong is in LA and will be directing his legion of minions over Skype.
The reactions are raw and run the gamut from disbelief to outright anger. While interesting and thought-provoking, Behind the Camera only truly comes to the fore if you have an intimate knowledgeable of Korean cinema, especially as the cast and crew play larger-than-life versions of their celebrity personas, hamming it up to great effect. In the spirit of the best observational mockumentaries at some points you’ll laugh, but at others you’ll find yourself squirming in discomfort, especially as the set descends into chaos and tensions run high. Even if you’re not a knowledgeable fan of all things Korean, E J-Yong’s latest is still an enjoyable and engaging film, even though you may miss that priceless zing of pleasure that comes from recognising a star cameo.