Films & Schedules

  • Treeless Mountain

  • So Yong Kim

USA/South Korea
89 minutes

Production Company:
soandbrad, inc./Parts and Labor
Executive Producer:
Ian McGloin, Jamie Mai, Charlie Ledley
Jay Van Hoy, Lars Knudsen, Ben Howe, Bradley Rust Gray
So Yong Kim
Production Designer:
See Hee Kim
Anne Misawa
So Yong Kim, Bradley Rust Gray
Eric Offin, Mark Garcia
Asobi Seksu
Principal Cast: Hee Yeon Kim, Song Hee Kim, Soo Ah Lee, Mi Hyang Kim

International Sales Agent:
Memento Films International

Friday September 0505:15PM AMC 3 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Sunday September 0701:30PM AMC 3 Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Saturday September 1301:00PM AMC 3 Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Evoked by early childhood memories, the story of a precocious journey to maturity comes into focus with exquisite simplicity in So Yong Kim's gentle masterpiece, Treeless Mountain.

An observational portrait of a young girl coming to terms with loss and abandonment, Treeless Mountain is made of the same substance as cinema-vérité, but it is woven in a dreamlike quality, making it seem like a horrific fairy tale that is at the same time painfully realistic.

Six-year-old Jin (Hee Yeon Kim) and her younger sister Bin (Song Hee Kim) live on the edge of disaster, but they are not aware of it. In the small apartment where they reside with their single mother, the menacing sounds of the outer world, disturb their precarious cocoon. One day (ominously foreshadowed by Jin wetting the bed), their mother packs all their belongings. For Jin, the days of going to school are over. Mommy is gone, leaving her and Bin in a hostile home with their alcoholic Big Aunt (Mi Hyang Kim) and a piggy bank to slowly fill with tinkling coins and shining hopes. Once the bank is full, their mother will be back.

Moving without being melodramatic, Treeless Mountain is a subtle film told mainly through the eyes of Jin, who is old enough to feel abandoned but not old enough to understand why her mother left or what the repercussions of her absence might be.

Filmed from the perspective of its young protagonists, the world in Treeless Mountain seems magnified and oversized – a visual approach that helps us look at the universe through a child's eyes. Kim pays particular attention to creating an authentic portrait of the girls' emotions. Hee Yeon Kim gives an excellent performance as the caring older sister who is forced into maturity, while little Bin has a touching, almost haunting, presence throughout the film, dressed in a princess costume that is slowly discolouring and wearing out. As Jin stubbornly persists in feeding sisterly affection to the failing Bin, we eventually see the cold, empty space in the little girl's heart warm over.

Giovanna Fulvi

So Yong Kim was born in Pusan, South Korea, and grew up in Los Angeles. She studied painting, performance, and video art, earning her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her feature films are In Between Days (06), which won a Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and Treeless Mountain (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award