Heavily patrolled by armed soldiers, the Dooman is a frigid river on the border of North Korea and China. More than 400,000 Koreans have risked their lives to cross the river in order to reach China.
The film Dooman River highlights the friendship between two 12-year-olds: Chang-Ho, a Chinese-born Korean living in a poor border town in China with his grandfather and mute sister; and a starving Korean boy who crosses the river in search of food for his sick sister. Sharing what little his family has, Chang-Ho welcomes the Korean boy and invites him to play soccer with his friends
Meanwhile, loudspeakers in the town blare government announcements threatening punishment for those who associate with North Korean “illegals”. When a series of local incidents begins to generate fear and hatred among the residents, Chang-Ho is caught in a desperate situation and must choose between helping his Korean friend and fending for himself.
An elderly woman in the town recalls a time long gone, in her youth, when a bridge spanned the Dooman, and Chinese and Koreans could visit back and forth. She dreams of being able to cross over once more during her lifetime.
Korean Chinese auteur Zhang Lu’s powerful film about Chinese Koreans living in a controversial border town offers a sophisticated perspective on how nationalism and racism divide people.
– Heather Keung