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Granny’s Got Talent – The Korean Cultural Centre has a fortnightly screening of films. The latest one that I went to was Granny’s Got Talent or 헬머니 (pronounced Helmeoni – a literal translation would be Hell Granny).
The premise is built around an old woman who is released from jail. She lost contact with her eldest son and tries to build that connection whilst living with her youngest son. The eldest son is a salary man with an over-bearing set of rich in-laws. The youngest son an inveterate gambler. To bail the youngest son out of trouble she participates in a Korean reality TV show based around cursing and chaos ensues. Veteran Korean actress carries off the role of Hell Granny with aplomb. I laughed so hard at some points I ended up crying.
The raucous bawdy humour of Granny’s Got Talent works despite subtitles and has some amazing comedic set-pieces. But this rudeness is only the top layer in the story, where the viewer gets a glimpse at the hard life a strong woman had to live in a fast-developing South Korea.
The film works on a number of levels touching a number of distinctly Korean themes including the obsession with hierarchy, its turbulent political past, the corrupt aspects of chaebols and the love of family (no matter how dysfunctional).
The piece that British audiences will most relate to is the exploitative nature of reality TV formats. Something that the English title translation picked up, rather than going with a literal translation of the Korean ‘Hell Granny’. ‘Hell Granny’ as a title focuses on the profanity. When I was young someone who swore or used bawdy language was said to have the mouth of a washer woman – a low class blue collar job. For more Korea related posts, go here.
Movie page on Daum in Korean