Award-Winning Movie From Sydney Film Festival Re-Edited After Racism Backlash
"I intended this film to be a young girl's journey of self-discovery in the age of internet culture, and I failed to recognise how problematic this was. I take full responsibility for this."
A prize-winning movie from the Sydney Film Festival has sparked another conversation about racism and representation in Australian media, after a “profoundly problematic” film was awarded a $7,000 prize.
Mukbang centres on a white school student who has a sexual awakening after she starts streaming videos of herself binge-eating, a trend that’s popular in South Korea.
One scene depicts a drawing of her attacking a black schoolboy — a scene which was taken out in a response to the backlash, after the film had already won.
Actress and director Eliza Scanlen — best known for her roles in Little Women and Sharp Objects — has since apologised “for creating a work that has caused offence”.
Writer and actress Michelle Law called the movie out online, using it as an example of “how racist and broken the screen industry is in Australia”.
“Beyond the racism and violence within the film, editing a film AFTER IT HAS WON is rigging the system. It’s dishonest and unfair to the other films in consideration,” she tweeted.
(The antagonist in the film is a Black teenage boy.) pic.twitter.com/HiyVpOCFgZ
— Michelle Law (@ms_michellelaw) June 19, 2020
Twenty-one-year-old Scanlen won the $7,000 Rouben Mamoulian Award for best short film director for Mukbang, but in a statement posted to Instagram said she is researching how to use the prize money “to create positive action out of this shameful oversight”.
“I intended this film to be a young girl’s journey of self-discovery in the age of internet culture, and I failed to recognise how problematic this was. I take full responsibility for this,” she wrote.
“I want to also apologise for cutting the scene that displayed an illustration of violence against a Black character without addressing it first. It was a rash decision in response to hearing that it had triggered a number of people. Despite this, I am ashamed that this scene was overlooked by all involved in the production.”
She went on to say she would make it a priority to hire more diverse crew in the future.
“Until this stage, I know I have been practicing a very convenient form of allyship which has mostly involved calling out racism as a way of showing recognition of my privilege as a white woman.
“However, I need to own up more to recognising it within myself, and just how insidious it is,” she said.
Scanlen was awarded the prize by a jury made up of actor-producer Bryan Brown and directors George Miller and Sophie Hyde, who described Scanlen as “a director with a fresh voice” at the virtual festival’s awards ceremony late last week.
Feature Image: Sydney Film Festival