Columbia is my America.
Knowing where you come from is an essential part of knowing who you are. That’s Wonjung Bae’s view, at least.
Born in Busan, South Korea, to an artist mother and a Marine father, Bae wanted to gain perspective on what her parents’ differing influences represented in her life.
“For me to better understand these two worlds, it was critical for me to find where I am and what I am,” she told the Columbia Chronicle. “Filmmaking is how I find the solution between the clashing of two worlds.”
When Bae was only 16 years old, she made her first documentary, a short piece about her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father called Grand, Father and Me. She made the film at a time in her life when she was questioning the significance of her Korean ancestry in respect to the world around her.
As an MFA candidate at Columbia, Bae filmed Vera Klement: Blunt Edge, an 11-minute documentary about prolific Chicago-based painter Vera Klement, whose work depicts isolated and alienated landscapes, people, and objects. The film was a way for Bae to better understand her mother’s world: the world of an artist.
Although her documentaries helped Bae discover who she is, she was able to reap other benefits. Vera Klement: Blunt Edge has garnered multiple awards, including a Directors Guild Student Film award in 2010 and a gold medal at the 38th Student Academy Awards in May 2011.