Fantastic Fest Review: I AM TRASH Is A Family Film About Rape

"You should take your whole family to see it,” says the insane director of this incest-laden Korean film.

I Am Trash is a Korean film about domestic abuse, and if that surprises you then you likely haven’t seen many Korean films.

While domestic violence obviously occurs all over the world, a vast number of Korean films seem to focus on this horrible issue, and I Am Trash more than most. Incest, rape, murder… this has it all.

This is not an easy movie to get through. It revolves around a man who’s a trash collector in Seoul whose father is about to get out of prison after a ten-year stint for raping a little girl. In the father’s absence the trash man is trying to keep his family together and keep his two younger brothers out of trouble, but not doing a great job of it. His youngest brother seems to want to take after their father and assault women and so his older brother forces him to masterbate constantly to work out his impulses. The middle brother is in the army and is doing a little bit of raping himself, forcing himself on a bunkmate until he finally fights back.

Their father comes home not realizing that the father of the child he raped has revenge on his mind. Even ten years later the man’s daughter still hasn’t recovered from what was done to her, and she refuses to leave the house or even look at her father. He walks around with a knife in his pocket, threatening the trash man that he’s going to cut off his father’s dick if he sees him.

Everyone sees no problem giving into their dark impulses, including things that involve two or three of the brothers themselves, and things spiral further and further out of control as the film goes on towards the inevitable conflict. If this sounds absolutely terrible and horrifying, well, it is. Attach all kinds of trigger warnings to this film and then realize that as bad as it seems, things can always get worse. They frequently do.

As insane as the movie is, the Q&A immediately afterwards might have been even crazier. Director Sang Woo-Lee was visibly nervous to be talking in front of an audience after the screening but that didn’t prevent him from revealing some incredibly personal anecdotes.

After revealing that he had shot the whole film without permits (this includes a rape scene on a packed subway car), he also said that every close-up dick on screen was his own. He promised that he was bigger in real life.

Woo-Lee also apparently had an issue trying to get actors to have sex on screen for a scene that required visible penetration, so what did he do to resolve this issue? Grabbed his first AD and fucked him on camera, of course.

“I’m a nice guy!” he kept insisting to the increasingly alarmed (and giggling) audience.

He did reveal that this is based on a true story and while the story didn’t take place exactly like this, every awful thing that happened in this film was taken from a news story. He just combined all these atrocities into the feel-bad movie of Fantastic Fest.

I Am Trash will likely never get distribution in its home country, and is the third part of his “Family” trilogy of films that includes Mother is a Whore and Father is a Dog.

“This is a family movie,” Wook-Lee commented. “You should take your whole family to see it.”

That is terrible advice. I Am Trash is, however, quite the experience.