SEOUL, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- While all eyes will be on Parasite, the film by director Bong Joon-ho that is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, another film from South Korea is also making history this weekend in Hollywood.
In the Absence, a 29-minute documentary by director Yi Seung-jun and producer Gary Byung-seok Kam about the 2014 Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea, is nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject, another first for a Korean film.
And while Parasite shines a darkly humorous light on the pervasive sense of inequality in South Korean society, In the Absence revisits one of the most painful events in the country's recent history.
The film starts on April 16, 2014, when a passenger ferry carrying 476 passengers and crew, the MV Sewol, began listing dangerously near Jeju Island before capsizing. More than 300 people would ultimately perish in the disaster, including some 250 students from Danwon High School in Ansan.
The tragedy deeply shook South Korean society, with outrage directed toward the ship's owners, crew and captain -- who abandoned ship with more than half the passengers still on board -- as well as lax regulators and the government's botched handling of the rescue.
Indecisiveness and inaction by the coast guard and other authorities left students trapped aboard the slowly sinking vessel, many of whom had been told to stay put and were awaiting further instructions.
As one passenger who managed to escape says in the film: "The one who was supposed to protect us was absent there."
Also absent in the aftermath of the tragedy were answers to why things went so wrong. The government of then-President Park Geun-hye was widely accused of withholding information, obstructing an independent investigation and even delaying the salvaging of the sunken vessel.
Park's handling of the disaster sparked a backlash that would become one of the key catalysts for the Candlelight Revolution, a protest movement that ultimately led to her impeachment and removal from office in 2017. In 2018, Park was found guilty on charges of abuse of power and coercion and sentenced to 24 years in prison.
The heartbreaking documentary features archival audio and video footage from the disaster and interviews with survivors, rescue divers and family members of the victims. The film previously won first prize in the long form category at the World Press Photo Digital Storytelling Contest.