Here is a rather humorous synopsis for a science fiction movie I would like to make. If anyone is interested, do let me know.
Park Sunja is a rising star in Korean society. Her father, once the prime minister, is a charismatic figure who encourages her to be the best and she has taken every opportunity. She has not only received the best education at Seoul National University and Princeton, and has the best network in Seoul, she also has a certain passion and political skill that makes her stand out even among Seoul’s best and brightest.
Maybe Sunja is different because of a childhood experience: her mother and father had a bitter split up when she was nine which left her living in relative poverty with distant in-laws. That experience taught her something about how the other half live and makes her more aware, more curious, about the rest of the world than her privileged friends.
Because Sunja spent much time abroad as a privileged child, she speaks English as well as, or better than, Korean. The dialog in the movie is split between English language scenes with international friends and Korean language scenes with Korean friends. Often Sunja seems to have trouble understanding what both the international friends and Korean friends say. That slight “lost in translation” quality is important part of the story. And as the whole movie concerns intentional ambiguity, we get the sense that some of the misunderstandings are not misunderstandings at all.
Sunja latches on to the environment as her cause in college and with her elite background and her strong network, she is perfectly positioned to go to the top. The world is in a crisis. The worst weather, from baking droughts to torrential rains, yellow dust blows in that chokes and animals are dying everywhere. But the television reports speak of how perfect the weather is and most people seem to be completely unable to recognize the crisis, even as it happens in front of their eyes.
For Sunja this becomes a great cause. She has a tremendous fight with her sister Jungju about the crisis and makes up her mind to deal with environmental issues in an action-oriented manner. Before she knows it, and with some help from her father, she is writing a best selling book, appearing on TV and her NGO Green Think is a runaway hit. She speaks the truth and people applaud her. She feels as if she is startin g to make a difference. With the help from her father, Sunja raises great amounts of money for her NGO and creates her own little eco paradise, in Seoul. A place for organic farming in the center of Seoul.
But, oddly, although she makes many original proposals and receives great praise, none of her projects go any further than her little eco village. Her eco village ends up seeming more like Marie Antoinette’s toy farm:, a nice place for rich kids to play, than anything with impact. She seems to be unable to make any real change in people’s lives, or to address the major causes of pollution and environmental decay through her actions. She is deeply frustrated.
Things come to a head at a fundraiser that her father helps to put together for her NGO Green Think. Sunja meets CEOs and politicians in at a reception at the Lotte Hotel. They express great enthusiasm and support for her ideas and her bravery. But the conversations lead her to suspect that their real purpose is to neutralize her, not to help her. She starts to ask some very sharp questions and gets some telling answers. She feels she has proof of a corporate conspiracy.
The next day, she confronts her father. He wants to keep her away from the truth, but Sunja is a bit arrogant and overly self-confident (like Oedipus, she wants to force people to tell her the truth). She will not let her father off the hook. Her father is forced to reveal that there is an enormous conspiracy behind the scenes to keep people from addressing environmental crisis. It works primarily through NGOS like Green Think which are turned into feel-good clubs for the upper middle class and distract people from the truth. But her father does not seem to ultimately understand what is going on either. Sunja is disgusted, and has a complete falling out with him. She stomps out of the room and sets out to find out the truth for herself.
Sunja runs into an acquaintance at the office of Green Think that night as she is laboring away to find out the truth. It is her old friend Kim Jun. Jun is a very dedicated environmentalist, walks or bikes everywhere. A vegan and organic farmer, he holds environmental issues dear to his heart. As she talks to him, Sunja starts to feel that Jun is what her father is not: the real thing. She falls for him, not so much as romance (for the relationship includes no love scenes and the possible attraction is quite muted), but as a charismatic leader.
He seems almost too strong a leader for comfort, however. And the closer she gets to him, the more she senses that he is also not really telling the truth either.
She detects one day a bit of a North Korean accent in Jun’s pronunciation, and stumbles upon some evidence that he is working with North Korea. She also finds clues that North Korea, which Jun seems to be working for, is on the edge of doing something big, something really big.
But none of what she learns makes any sense. First, all the media reports she sees suggest North Korea is on the verge of collapse. Crippled by poverty and starvation, North Korea seems to be the basket case of the world. It does not make sense that North Korea is about to take over Korea, let alone take over the world.
Secondly, why is this North Korean undercover in Seoul in the form of an organic farmer? What could be the point? He certainly is not meeting any important people. Moreover, he seems so sophisticated, so thoughtful? Things are definitely not what they appear to be.
She starts to put the pieces together: as climate catastrophe looms, North Korea’s power is increasing because it is the only country in the world that has access to advanced technology and strategy and at the same time is capable of functioning in the face of terrible adversities like starvation. The “impending collapse” is a ruse to distract people from what is really going on. Pyongyang has formed a global alliance with other hidden powers around the world to parlay this particular strength into a tool for global domination during the coming economic and environmental disaster.
When Sunja puts together enough pieces of the puzzle, she confronts Jun, just as she confronted her father. But this time, Sunja is in over head. Jun grabs her and pulls her through a secret door into the world of international spies.
The next thing Sunja knows she is on a private plane flying to the Pentagon where she meets with the major players working with Jun and gets debriefed. She learns that she was wrong about her father as well. It is not a conspiracy of multinational companies to undermine the environmental movement that we are facing. It turns out that the multinationals are themselves only the puppets of a greater power: the convergence of supercomputers around the world into a continuous whole that essentially thinks for itself.
That mega-supercomputer is taking over the world in a totally invisible manner. Its goal is to assure itself an ever increasing supply of energy. Nothing can stand in its way. Although it is not fully conscious in a human manner, already, the supercomputer controls the defenses of all nations in the world—although they cannot tell the public—and it makes its will known. Sunja learns that it is the need of electrons to circulate in accord with the second law of thermodynamics that is driving this madness. Moreover, she also learns that the media and other sources of information are controlled by a complex computer virus developed in the Pentagon. Moreover, this virus is capable to leaping from the computer to the actual brains of observers, thus explaining why people are so completely incapable of understanding the climate change around them.
North Korea is central to the computer’s plan, Sunja learns. North Korea will be a powerful organization in the human realm that will help the supercomputer to dominate the post-apocalyptic world. Sunja meets a wide range of people in the Pentagon and elsewhere bravely battling against this monster.
But the only way to battle is through the supercomputer itself and the use of those computers only feeds to the monster further.
Sunja feels trapped. And she can see no way out this time. Even her pro-environment friend turns out to be just another tentacle of the octopus—like her father. She is near despair.
When walking in Georgetown with Jun, Sunja manages to escape him, and uses her wits to go completely off the grid. Sunja despairs of achieving anything in this twisted world. She wonders into the woods and ends up living with a survivalist environmental group up in the mountains of Virginia. She has turned her back on everything that gave her power and status and starts out from the bottom in this group. Here she confronts Tom Dime and his sister Rebecca Dime, the leaders of this survivalist village. Tom and Rebecca have a certain straightforwardness that is refreshing for Sunja. But, although the groups radical commitment to the environment does impress her, Sunja encounters racial prejudice in this group, particularly from the strong willed Rebecca, that is unlike anything she has encountered in her life. She finds herself socially and economically at the very bottom. An experience that affects her deeply.
The movie ends with Sunja moving towards a middle way, moving back to engagement with society, this time with a more humble perspective and lower expectations for what she can achieve by herself. She befriends a single mother Jamie Flag who lives in a trailer and spends some time with Jamie and her son Jeff seeing what the environmental crisis means for working class people. She feels now that it is most important to convince the poorly educated to think about the environment than engage in high-profile activities.
Fundraising dinner for Green Think in Seoul
Confrontation between Sunja and her father
Meeting with Jun late at night after fight with father
Confrontation with Jun about his true identity
Meeting with the insiders at the Pentagon
Sunja turns her back on everything
Sunja argues with the survivalists