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Professor and filmmaker Nah Howon reviews the animation short Pigeon by Kim Sang Joon.

Joe begins his day in absolute misery as he gets attacked by pigeons. Joe meets a few more rude people during the day. Joe rushes to his car but finds he just received a ticket and loses his temper. Joe drives in fury and does not mind unkind to others as they have treated him the same. Joe soon realizes he is just like everyone else that makes this world a worse place.- Synopsis

The dove is a symbol of peace, or at least that used to be the case in South Korea. A symbol isn't created overnight. It is something that is built up over time through the collective agreement of people with a shared culture. (As an aside, there must have been a person who proposed the dove as a peace symbol, and others who might have supported a different bird, like a chicken, pheasant, or ostrich, or even something other than a bird entirely, like another type of animal, a plant, or a mineral; imagine how much debate and persuasion was needed to get everyone to associate the dove with peace!) This symbol spread to other cultures and, over a long period of time, came to be accepted as a peace symbol. At least until the time when the author of this review was learning about cultural symbols, the dove still represented the ideal of peace.

Watch Pigeon Trailer:

But the downfall of a symbol is a swift affair. It was not easy to convince my own child to equate doves with peace. Nowadays, song lyrics imploring the listener to “build a peaceful home, like a dove” sound nonsensical. Today, a home or household likened to the nest of a dove, or rather a pigeon, is no longer a place of peace and love but instead a violent household full of disharmony or a filthy and neglected domicile.

Even those communities that had once spread this former peace symbol no longer consider it in the same way. Why has this happened? And since when has this been the norm? Although there isn’t verified scholarship on the matter, the shift might be a reaction to the flocks of pigeons that filled the skies during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, or rumors about a pigeon that was immolated by the Olympic flame. Of course,these are unreliable accounts since the shift in the perception of the dove wasn’t limited to Seoul and its vicinity after 1988. Despite being able to fly great distances and reproduce rapidly, it is doubtful that their habits alone changed the public’s perception in such a drastic way (this would require further study by an ornithologist).

I found that I hate drivers when I cross the street. Strangely, I hate pedestrians when I drive a car. I live in a big city and everyone only thinks about self, not others. Each view and aspect get easily changed. Short animated film "Pigeon" captures a moment of that awkwardness - Kim Sang Joon


Kim Sang Joon's ​ Pigeon is a portrait of people living in urban environments. Rather than showing an anthropomorphic bird, the film shows people in the form of pigeons. The urban people wearing the faces of pigeons look ready to peck at anyone with their sharp beaks. There’s no cause or reason for it, and if there is a reason, it is surely for a minor infraction. They are simply full of anger and resentment, ready to explode with rage and easily irritated by the slightest disturbance. Perhaps veering away from the field of ornithology to psychology, today’s urban environment is built in a way that causes these emotions to build up. People are densely packed in confined spaces like cogs in a vast production machine, until the rising emotions overload the system and causes it to overheat under pressure. Add to that the survival requirements of “speed and competitiveness,” and it’s a miracle that there has not been a catastrophic meltdown already.


If we wish to run a simulation that determines whether urban residents will explode under tension, there’s no need for a supercomputer. Simply go to the park, playground, or alley and throw a handful of bird food to a crowd of pigeons. Somewhere along the way, we began to see pigeons as a kind of winged beast, looking upon them with a nasty expression. In that sense, ​ Pigeons is like a giant mirror that allows us to see our own reflection. We are the ones who turned the pigeon into an object of animosity, and we are the ones to blame for treating others with the same suspicion and aggression that we reserve for pigeons.

Allegories always touch upon a grain of truth, and ​ Pigeon is at once an urban myth and an urban allegory

Contributed by: Nah Howon

Credits:
Pigeon (2020, South Korea, 5:47) | 2D,  Animation,  Social Satire/ Comedy
Director-producer-script-animation: KIM Sang-joon |  Voice: Charles Hubbell

About Kim Sang Joon:
He was born (1986) in Seoul, South Korea. In 2012, he graduated from School of Visual Arts majoring Computer Art. From 2012 to 2017, he worked at Framestore Inc as a compositor. He is now working at Tadoh Studio as a Director.

The article benefited from the help of Korea Independent Animation Filmmakers Association (KIAFA).

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