Film Screening


Directed by Park, Gyu-tae
26 June 2009

Based on a novel by Wang Shu-Fen and sharing a more than passing resemblance to the Adam Sandler comedy, The Waterboy, Park Gyu-Tae's 2007 film is a well-told tale that focusses on finding joy in life, rather than dwelling on the negative. That is not to say that the film does not have its emotional moments or that it takes its subject matter lightly. There is high drama, but the filmmaker seems more interested in finding the humorous side of life, as is true of what many people do in less than ideal circumstances. Despite the fact that he is ridiculed constantly by his peers and even told by his teachers to stay home on exam days so as to not lower the overall class grade, eleven-year old Dong-Ku is completely oblivious to it all and simply enjoys coming to school each day. But it is not the extracurricular activities, the daily social interaction with children his own age, or an opportunity to learn that propels him to school every morning. Dong-Ku's singular reason for attending school is a bit out of the ordinary - he simply loves being the class waterboy, taking the schoolapproved kettle around and filling the cups of his classmates during lunch. Unfortunately, Dong-Ku's whole world comes crashing down when a practical joke quickly lands him in proverbial hot water with the school authorities, raising the distinct possibility of expulsion. His teachers insist that he attend a special school, a move his loving father Jin-Gyu, simply cannot afford. Meanwhile, Dong-Ku is horrified to learn that the school has got rid of all the in-class kettles, replacing them with water purifiers, thus eliminating Dong-Ku's sole reason for attending school. However, while daydreaming in class, a solution presents itself, as he spies a waterboy carrying a kettle to his teammates on the baseball field. He meets Coach Kwon who’s own job is in jeopardy. With his team on a losing streak and with only eight players left, the coach is at his wits end to find a way to field a team. Upon meeting Dong-Ku, the coach initially sees him as a godsend and is eager to sign him up for the team. Dong-Ku agrees, but only if he can serve as the team's waterboy. A deal is struck, and all seems well, only Dong-Ku knows nothing about baseball! Luckily for him, his classmate Joon-Tae decides to take him under his wing and teach him the basics of the game. Realizing that Dong-Ku is unlikely to ever be an ace with the bat, Joon-Tae teaches him the only move the young boy seems capable of executing: a bunt. The big question is whether Dong-Ku will actually be able to make contact with the ball and pull it off on his own during the big game. Structurally, Bunt is all about character motivation. Dong-Ku wants to continue being a waterboy, Jin- Gyu wants to provide a home for his son, Coach Kwon wants to keep his job, and even Joon-Tae has his own reasons for helping Dong-Ku. The way in which all these side stories intersect might be predictable, but the manner in which director Park Gyu-Tae assembles all the separate pieces is to be commended. Punctuated with hilarious moments as well as with the occasional, genuinely poignant scene, Bunt is a feel-good underdog story that is likely to win over audiences both young and old.
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