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The perils of inflight entertainment

It was a long flight. I can always tell by the number of inflight movies I end up watching before we touch down. This was about a three movie and one documentary trip.

We spent a wonderful week in Hawaii with my parents and my brother’s family. The sky was blue. The sea was warm. We swam, ate and spent precious time with them all.

Now we were in that strange mid-air transition back to the real world. We had work and school waiting for us back home in Sydney. But first we had to sit for 10 hours to get there.

Bored, I turned on the inflight entertainment and was surprised to see a Korean movie listed there — Swing Kids.

Set in the POW camp on Geoje Island during the Korean War, it was about a group of five unlikely people who formed a dance troupe in a bid to win a propaganda war for the West.

There was Xiao Pang, a Chinese POW with a big belly and a bad heart who loved to dance. Kang Byung-Sam, who was desperate to become famous in order to find his wife. Yang Pal-Lae, a tenacious and resourceful civilian woman who spoke four languages and needed work . Rho Ki-Soo, a North Korean POW who falls in love with the dance the west offered.

Leading this team was Jackson, an African American Sargent in the U.S Army who wanted to head back to Okinawa to be reunited with his love. He unleashes a longing for freedom in the dancers. Dancing no longer becomes a propaganda exercise for the participants but a source of hope and a chance to dream.

The movie was funny and tragic, with human monsters on both the U.S and North Korean side that doomed a generation of people, including the dance troupe.

It was difficult to watch something beautiful destroyed. I forgot I put mascara on that morning. And I ugly cried. Thankfully the plane was dark.

Then the sound cut out of the entertainment unit. I didn’t get it back for the rest of the flight. I turned to my husband to talk to him about the movie.

“Was it about a poor, hard working girl, a rich man and a family that disapproves of the match?” he jokes.

He has been with me long enough to know the common elements in most Korean Dramas, and was gently poking fun at me.

“No love, it wasn’t,” I respond. “You should watch it.”

He shakes his head.

“My headphones don’t work,” he says and goes back to the glowing light of his Kindle.

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June 2019
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