In a curious editing decision, director Lee Hyeok-jong-I starts “Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” off on the high point of the senior choir’s career- when they went to the United Nations in New York to sing traditional Korean songs in the context of wishing for reunification. Overall “Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” is more interested in what happened after this performance than it is in the build-up. Which does rather bolster the documentary’s larger point, about how the elderly men and women in this choir sing because, well, it’s not like they have anything better to do.
That’s the main takeaway I got from the generally fragmented narrative anyway. The choir is so big and it is, by definition, such a team effort, that it really would be unfair to focus on any individual member for too long. Especially since they all have pretty much the same story. They might be old, but age is only a number. They’re young at heart, and even have hobbies beyond just the music. It’s just, music is their favorite hobby, and it’s cool to be able to perform in such a well-known group.
That being a relative term, of course. “Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” is a documentary in the general interest TV mold than in the more epic film documentary one. The central purpose is to help us understand who these people are, why they do what they do, and most importantly how we ourselves are like them. “Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” is hopeful, in the sense that it makes us think that we too, young and old, can also succeed in modestly ambitious dreams.
Mostly though this framing device is just an excuse to show lots and lots of music. Generally it’s traditional Korean songs, although You Raise Me Up does make an appearance. Even if no one in the choir really directly understands what that song’s about, the emotion is pretty transparent. The Grey Youth Choir, as a group, is all about hope and optimism and doing the best job possible in whatever trying circumstance.
Really, there’s times when anybody could use a pick me up like that. But absent any kind of engaging conflict, “Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” is never really any more than the sum of its parts. There’s a lot of good music, a lot of good short introductions to the choir members, and even in performance, the choir looks really good. Aside from the moments of warm fuzzies I get listening to them, though, there’s not really all that much to their work.
That being, naturally, the cynical point of view. I mean look, in these trying political times, for a documentary to open up with a plea to the United Nations on the importance of re-unification is just…it kind of sets the movie off on the wrong foot in terms of making the Grey Youth Choir seem important. But don’t tell them I wrote that. They really are excellent performers and I wouldn’t mind seeing them live one day.
Review by William Schwartz
“Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream” is directed by Lee Hyeok-jong-I and narrated by Ahn Sung-ki.
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Grey Youth Choir – Another Dream