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Women of the Sea

April 3, 2015

On Jeju Island in South Korea, Haenyeo is the name for the generations of women free-divers who, in the hunt for octopi, abalone and conch, dive without an oxygen tank or respirator. The short documentary HAENYEO: WOMEN OF THE SEA provides an intimate portrait of these women who, in a cultural shift of power due to Japanese colonization, took on the free-diving occupation and became bread winners for their families. Produced by recent Film & Video graduates Kevin Sawicki, Alex Igidbashian and Daye Jeoung and edited by Megan Pollin, the film premiered at the Drexel senior thesis screening in 2013 and has since received a raft of international film festival awards, including National Geographic’s Wild to Inspire Top 10 ranking and Best Short Documentary at the L.A. International Underground Film Festival. Click here to watch the film.  

HAENYEO focuses on Chuwar Park, a vibrant 82-year-old free-diver, in its cinematic explorations of growing tourism on the island and its effect on the future that Haenyeo women have in a changing society. The film has screened in 43 cities as part of the Ocean Film Festival World Tour, was named Best Student Documentary at the Thin Line Film Festival, and received the Audience Award and Best Student Film at the Praxis Film Festival. It was nominated for Best Short at the Asians on Film Festival and Best Documentary Short in the Queens Film Festival, in addition to receiving an honorable mention at the Short Sweet Film Festival and the Coastal Culture Award at the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival.

“HAENYEO: WOMEN OF THE SEA was, in a way, a massive learning experience that existed under the guise of making a film. As a team we had an extremely ambitious idea, which led to endless questions, a journey across the world, amazing discoveries and, in the end, a film that we are very happy to share with people,” said Kevin Sawicki, who has since moved to Hawaii, where he is employed by one of the state’s largest production companies and is a member of the local IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts) union chapter. 

Since graduating from the Film & Video program Daye Jeong has moved to Seoul, Korea, where she is continuing her graduate studies in visual communication and graphic design. Alex Igidbashian relocated to Yerevan, Armenia after graduation to create TRAVERSED: A Visual Journey Through Armenia, an exploration of the past, present, and unfolding future of a small, quickly modernizing country in the former Eastern Bloc, which is currently in post-production. Megan Pollin has since moved to Los Angeles, where she recently wrapped work in post-production for the film TRAINWRECK.