She is the sort of Joseon princess Kurt Vonnegut might have written about—and the Russian, Egyptian, Chinese, and Thai princesses too. She seems to be shifting in time and space, from era to era. However, her secret is only too terrestrial and tragic. Somehow, her mysterious uncle holds the key to her fate in Dave Zhang’s short film Princess Eun Hwa, which screens during KAFFNY Third Culture Cinema 2016.
Poor Princess Eun Hwa adores her uncle, but he always leaves after delivering her medicine. The kingdom appears to be restive, but there is always a brave prince willing to escort her through the chaos in search of her beloved father-figure. However, as soon as she kisses her champion, she is suddenly whisked away to another historical realm. This process continues through most of Asia and the empires of classical antiquity. Whenever the Princess tries to slow down the cosmic cycle, she incurs her uncle’s wrath.
Obviously, there is something sinister going on behind the scenes, but to reveal it would be spoilerish (so do not read the film’s synopsis on the KAFFNY website). However, it directly pertains to grave contemporary issues that demand greater media attention, so covering the film presents quite a quandary. If you haven’t guessed the twist yet, a cold viewing will leave you deeply unsettled, but having that sort of strong, honest reaction to a film is a good thing.
For a thirty-nine-minute short, Princess Eun Hwa is quite a technical achievement, carefully crafting at least a dozen historical eras. However, the real gut punch comes from the poignancy of Song Lee Song’s achingly naïve and vulnerable performance as the Princess. Likewise, there is remarkable subtlety and nuance to Kang Ju Yeon’s turn as her protective maid Snow, especially when considered in retrospect.