|Answer: <Turning point of the youngsters> (1934, Ahn Jong-hwa)
In July 2007, the Korean Film Archive collected the nitrate negative film rolls of the movie <Turning Point of the Youngsters> from a son of Oh Gi-yoon, who ran Danseongsa Movie Theater after the liberation of Korea. KOFA performed restoration work on the rolls. Regrettably restoration failed in one of the total 8 rolls collected by KOFA due to a severe white phenomenon (film being damaged and crushed like powder), but fortunately, the other 7 rolls were successfully restored to be the oldest original film rolls in existence.
<Turning Point of the Youngsters> shows the peak of the technology and production ability of the Korean cinema during the silent film period. Reviews included favorable comments like, “It indicates that Mr. Ahn Jong-hwa’s direction technique can reach a climax and Mr. Lee Myeong-u’s photography shows many traces of his great pain” (Sept. 21, 1934 Chosun Daily Newspaper). It is a happy ending story, combining melodrama and action elements, a genre traditionally preferred by Korean viewers. The story of this movie is summarized as follows:
Yeong-bok (Lee Won-yong), a stupidly honest man, is adopted as a son-in-law into Bong-seon’s family, and after working for seven years he is scheduled to marry Bong-seon soon. But he loses Bong-seon to Joo Myeong-gu (Yang Cheol) and leaves his hometown. Then working as a baggage carrier at Seoul Station, Yeong-bok meets Gye-soon (Kim Yeon-sil) who works at a gas station nearby. Yeong-bok’s younger sister, Yeong-ok (Shin Il-seon) comes up to Seoul after her mother’s death and starts to work as a waitress at a cafe. One day Joo Myeong-gu comes to see Jang Gae-cheol. Yeong-ok gets entangled with a group led by Jang Gae-cheol. She associates with them, but at last she is raped by Jang Gae-cheol. While seeking to borrow some money because of her poor family, Gye-soon also faces the risk of getting entangled with the Jang Gae-cheol group, but she runs away from Gae-cheol and goes back to her home. After seeing that, Yeong-bok runs to Gae-cheol’s house, where he meets his younger sister Yeong-ok and comes to know that his sister was humiliated by Gae-cheol. Yeong-bok finds and severely punishes Gae-cheol and Myeong-gu and starts a new life with Gye-soon and Yeong-ok.
First, unearthing of this film provided us with an opportunity to look at the form and level of our cinema during the last part of the silent film period. It is meaningful as a silent film of the maturity period in that it was produced near the starting point of the sound film period when <The Story of Chun-hyang> was released in 1935. Second, the movie shows a new aspect in that it stars Shin Il-seon, the heroine of <Arirang> (1926) who was known only by name because there was no film left of famous actors and actresses during the early silent film period, such as Lee Won-yong of <Fallen Blossoms of A Stream>, and Kim Yeon-sil of <Farewell> (1927). Moreover, it features a <special appearance> by Yang-cheol, who produced two movies, <People Who Are Fighting against the Sea> and <The Street Named Jongro> by employing Kim Yeon-sil and Na Woon-kyu. Third, it provides special retrospective feelings by allowing us to watch one of the earliest movies made by director Ahn Jong-hwa, who produced 12 movies from his debut movie, <A Florist> (1930) to his last movie, <The Altair and the Vega> but left no film roll of the movies. Fourth, unlike many other Korean movie film rolls obtained from overseas cultural archives so far, the film rolls of this movie have been collected by a Korean civilian. In particular, <Turning Point of the Youngsters> bears a great historical significance in that it is an original negative film, showing a quite different level compared with the print film of sound movies unearthed so far.