Interactions between human and natural systems: Social ecology in film adaptations of Little Forest in Japan and South Korea

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


A Keynote address
This presentation examines two examples of East Asian cinema which address the complex interactions between human and natural systems. These films are neither ecology films, which often exclude human impacts on natural environments, nor social or cultural films, which generally pay little heed to the functions or impacts of natural ecologies. Rather, they are a particular category which I refer to as social ecology films, that is, films which reflect mutually supportive impacts of human society and natural environments. They satisfy, in different degrees, Scott MacDonald’s criterion that the function of ecocinema is ‘to provide new kinds of film experience that … help to nurture a more environmentally progressive mindset’.These films are a Japanese and a Korean adaptation of the Japanese manga Little Forest (2002-2005). The manga series is a creative variation on a common cookbook genre which I refer to as ‘social ecology cookbooks’, that is, books which locate recipes within a cultural dialogue which enquires into the interdependencies of place and the social and cultural networks that shape the cognitive development of a person. The film adaptations (Japan, in two parts, 2014 and 2015; Korea, 2018) handle their source quite differently. The Japanese films broadly retain the structure and content of the manga, which is organised as a series of dishes cooked by the protagonist. Her life experience and personal relationships constitute several loose narrative threads more apt to dissolve than to interconnect and in the film adaptation seem to reflect an ecocinematic interest in resisting the teleology of closure in conventional narrative film. The transnational Korean film, in contrast, moves away from the cookbook structure, represents Korean cuisine in local settings and social practices, and develops the protagonist’s experiences into a more overt coming-of-age narrative. It thus, arguably, has a potentially stronger audience appeal but may be less successful as an ecocinematic social ecology.
Period15 Jul 2021
Event titleCamera Stylo 4 : Transnational Screens: Global Literature and Cinema
Event typeConference
LocationSydney, AustraliaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational