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Pak’s ‘Clytaemnestra’ Praised by Media While Filming Experiences Hones Teaching Skills

Woman stands in white dress swaying in breeze with Greek columns behind her
Ougie Pak’s Clytaemnestra was a 2021 BAMcinemaFEST official selection.

Ougie Pak’s feature film Clytaemnestra was recently praised in The New York Times and The New Yorker.

The Visual & Media Arts assistant professor said everyone loves validation, but he’s remaining humble.

“I try my best to practice ‘Wu Wei,’ or ‘achievement without attachment’. In the end, the true reward really is the work itself,” said Pak.

The success of Clytaemnestra really serves as an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers for what they can accomplish with very little means — it was an improvised and no-budget film. The entire crew consisted of Pak, the cinematographer, and the production coordinator.

ougie pak head shot
Ougie Pak

“The benefit of this, however, was that it allowed us to be fast and light, shooting almost like a documentary team,” said Pak. “The majority of the time, people didn’t even know we were making a film, which allowed us to use many iconic locations in Greece without having to worry about permits or permission.”

The film is about what happens when a director gathers five actresses from Seoul in a house in Greece to workshop a production of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon. Two of them are vying for the role of Clytaemnestra, the queen who murders her husband, Agamemnon, and his new conquest.

The New York Times raved about Pak’s direction and included it in a list of Five International Movies to Stream Now. Wrote The Times:

“The lines between performance and reality begin to blur, as one might expect, but ‘Clytaemnestra’ achieves something much sharper than simple allegory. Pak choreographs stark and spare rehearsal sequences against a backdrop rich with dramatic history (one scene takes place at the Theater of Dionysus), ironically undercutting the director’s assumptions of grandeur. While the character berates his actors for failing to appreciate his source text, Pak shows that the impulses that underlie even classical tragedies are much cruder and more banal than we might assume.”

Like The Times, The New Yorker compared the film to the low-budget Drive My Car, and the two are part of a brand new genre — a drama of an international production of a classic stage play. The New Yorker said “Pak’s dramatic conception is deft and daring” and that he “revels in the text and the form of the play itself, emphasizing the power of the Aeschylean poetry in scenes featuring the actors in street garb…”

The way Pak came to make the film is interesting, too. He was approached by lead actor/producer Jongman Kim in 2019 with an irresitableoffer. Kim was holding a two-week acting workshop with a group of South Korean actors and they wanted to shoot a film as part of their curriculum. But Pak needed to pay his way to Greece, and then Kim would cover the rest of the expenses.

“It was an offer I couldn’t refuse–the chance to shoot a free film with a group of willing actors… The only hook was that I needed to come up with a story in less than three weeks,” said Pak.

Additionally, Pak said making films like Clytaemnestra makes him a better teacher for Emerson students.

“I think I become a better teacher with each movie I make because I gain so many new realizations about the craft of filmmaking, which I then try to pass on,” said Pak. “I’ve also started using more of my own films in class (at the advice of my students). I’ve found them to be great case studies to explore various filmmaking techniques, since I can explain exactly how I made them from start to finish.”

Clytaemnestra is available to stream on MUBI.

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