While remotely attending the 26th Busan International Film Festival last month, I saw a documentary titled “Fanatic.” It attempts to come to grips with the attachment some Korean people have to their idols, whether pop stars or actors.
Much has been written about the cultural and economic aspects of pop fandom. What makes “Fanatic” both different and immediately intriguing is that the director, Oh Seyeon, identifies as a diehard fan herself, with the movie functioning as a means for her to investigate a state of mind that she admits can seem strange and intimidating to outsiders.
Oh is a film student, and while the production values of “Fanatic” come across as those of a graduation project, the often sardonic tone of her voiceover narration gives the movie an air of witty sophistication. As a fanatic herself, Oh not only knows what questions need to be asked in order to explain the phenomenon to nonfanatics, she has access to other fanatics who trust her enough to open up fully. It is this directness and the resulting candid conversations that distinguish “Fanatic” from the usual studies of fandom. She realizes that some people will find it a trivial topic, and she’s keen to have fun with it.