"Sori:Voice From The Heart" Review - A Rewarding, Heartwarming Film and An Interview With Director, Lee Ho-Jae

On Saturday, September 17, 2016, The Wilmette Theater, 1122 Central Street, Wilmette, screened the first of twelve award-winning films, as part of The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival, “Sori:Voice From The Heart”, (2016), from South Korea, in it’s Chicago premiere. Director Script-writer Lee Ho-jae was present before and after the film to answer questions, followed by a tea party in the lobby of the theater.

The marquee of The Willmette Theater featuring The Asian Pop-Up Cinema; photo courtesy of Barbara Keer

 “Sori", produced by the director's friend Jung Jae-won, stars Lee Sung-min, Lee Hee-joon and Lee Ha-nui (Lee Honey) and runs 117 minutes in Korean and English with easy to read and immediately understandable English subtitles. It has already won the 2016 Audience Choice Award at the Udine Far East Film Festival.


Beautifully and obviously lovingly filmed, this picture is a Tech-Fi delight about the nature of consciousness in artificial intelligence that is first and foremost an all-too-human drama on the themes of parental protection versus an adult child’s freedom of choice. It is also a full-length disquisition on the nature of grief and the differences between our internalized views of the people in our lives and their real natures. Finally, it forges a life-changing and life-affirming bond between a human and a machine.

Lee Sung-min and the robot, "Sori"


The film begins with a flashback to 1990 when a customs worker and his wife are desperately searching for their small daughter, Yoo-ju. When she is quickly located, father and daughter make a pact that should she ever get lost,  they will meet in a nearby ice cream shop. Thirteen years later,  after an epic father-daughter fight about her life choices, Yoo-ju turns up missing once again, presumed dead in the horrific arson- set fire that eviscerated the Daegu subway. Her father refuses to accept that she is gone, is devastated by guilt, and is hauntingly portrayed in his quest by veteran actor Lee Sung-Min, stunningly aged by the tragedy.


Meanwhile, in the skies, S19, an adorable American satellite robot, hunted by a couple of stiff and nerdy (but handsome) NASA types, a beautiful Korean engineer and a bunch of quasi-sinister Korean government agents, plunges into the sea where dad finds and retrieves it.

Lee Sung-min and Sori in "Sori: Voice From the Heart"


Setting it to rights with the help of a techno-geek friend, he discovers its voice tracking software, (it saves every conversation made on a phone) and dubs it “Sori”- the word for “sound” in Korean. He also discerns it is female, buys and drapes it in a pink hoodie, and the hunt for his daughter is on. The agents of both governments soon discover who has the satellite, though, and the chase for dad, amid the government machinations and plot twists also ensues.


The movie provides hip comedy, high-level chase scenes and wisely skirts delicate political commentary while proving especially strong at tugging the heartstrings and producing ultra-chic tech polish. The end had many in the audience audibly sobbing with emotion- it’s highly enjoyable and very much recommended.

Lee Ha-nui (Lee Honey) in "Sori"


                                  AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR


This reviewer had the opportunity to interview South Korean filmmaker Lee Ho-jae before the film and was present for the audience Q and A afterwards as well. His thoughtful, courteous and candid remarks are paraphrased below:

The Willmette Theater lobby with film festival logo; photo courtesy of Barbara Keer

He attended the film school at The Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA  where he learned the skills that he used in his five films, including his award-winning first feature, the stock-market crime-thriller “The Scam”, (2009). In “Sori”, he made use of a famous film editing  technique, based upon a Russian experiment, by which one develops the “personality” of an inanimate object by shooting the reactions and responses of humans to that object. He is known for doing his own extensive research for his films, and for “Sori”, that research centered on surveillance techniques.

He edited Lee So-young’s script and chose the actors, focusing on the father, an actor well known for sympathetic and mature portrayals. The biggest difficulty was in expressing the relationship between the desperate father and the “piece of metal”.

The underlying quandary here, a child who rebels in her choice of life’s work and becomes estranged from her father, is one that ironically, Ho-jae is familiar with- since he wrapped “Sori”, his own adolescent daughter has declared she wants to be a singer!

What are Ho-jae’s hopes for his audiences? “When the light comes up, fathers will call their daughters, and kids will call their parents, and they will really talk.”

Sori and the worried dad in "Sori: Voice From The Heart"


There are many more terrific films to see in The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival. For tickets, go to the Asian Pop-Up Cinema website.


Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtsy of The Asian Pop-Up Cinema Festival






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