“The Wolf Mask” provides a rare and intimate view of the rise, fall, and rebirth of one of South Korea’s most controversial organizations. Screened for only the second time at Austin Asian American Film Festival (AAAFF), “The Wolf Mask,” directed by Jeongho Ahn, chronicles a men’s rights group and their fight to maintain the status quo in a traditionally patriarchal Korea.Their mission: take down the Ministry of Gender Equality, which they feel has created hostility toward men, and establish the “Men of Korea” as a prominent men’s activism force.
Review by Dana Summers and Shadan Larki
“The Wolf Mask” focuses primarily on Sung Jae-gi, the founder of Men of Korea and his mission to rally the organization’s online members into real life revolutionaries who will take down feminism and the Ministry of Gender Equality. His core issues reflect those of men’s rights activists in the USA, including the fact that women are not required to serve in the military, and that men with a sex drive, according to Sung, are often treated as sexual predators and deviants. While the fellow Men of Korea agree with Sung’s values, his decision to endorse a female presidential candidate creates tensions and discussion within the organizations. On top of that, his attitude and his demanding leadership style sends many of his disciples over the edge.
This film manages to humanize activists with values so far from our own. It reveals them as damaged and insecure men who are taking out their rage on women, instead of the oppressive nature of modern society. In seeing their day-to-day activities, we are able to understand the challenges of getting the organization off the ground, the complex dynamics that form between the members, and the pitfalls of the men themselves. The film’s strength is in the filmmaker’s ability to portray these men, not as angry caricatures, but as they are, a group trying to carve a place for themselves amid Korea’s evolving culture and economic downturn.
This film fell short in showing the viewer what exactly motivated these men to take arms against women. While the stereotypical portrait of a lonely and bitter “nice guy” feeling that women don’t respect him enough did apply to some of the men in the organization, it was difficult so see why some of these men with wives, children, and families decided to join this organization. Even Sung, who founded this organization, has a supportive wife that we never see on screen and therefore cannot explain the reason for his actions and beliefs. Watching the film, you feel as though there is a deeper level waiting to be reached, but we never quite get there and are left wanting more insight into the minds of these men.
“The Wolf Mask” is a rare documentary that manages to take a deep dive into an uncomfortable subject matter that is all too prevalent not only to the men in this organization, but also to the women who have to coexist with this misogynistic mentality, not only in Korea, but all over the world.
Check out the trailer!
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