A film by Seung-Jun Yi
2019, 30 minutes
No. 277

2020 Academy Award Nominee | Best Documentary Short Subject

In the Absence begins on April 16, 2014, the day the MV Sewol, a passenger ferry carrying over 400 people—including school children—sank near Jeju Island. Over 300 people lost their lives that day. In the wake of this horrific incident, people across South Korea, including those whose loved ones had perished, sought transparency and accountability from national authorities. 

Years later, these families and their supporters are still fighting for answers for what happened on that fateful April morning.

This powerful documentary combines intimate interviews with victims’ families, survivors, and rescue divers with breathtaking archival footage and audio recordings obtained from the South Korean authorities. The result is a compelling yet compassionate story of the people whose lives were forever changed by this tragedy.

Winner, Grand Jury Prize Shorts Competition, DOC NYC

"Starred Review. A powerful documentary. This is a heartbreaking film showing bureaucratic incompetence... It is powerful in its immediacy and tragedy, making this a good choice for libraries collecting foreign films and Academy Award nominees." – Booklist

“The best of the [Academy Award nominated short documentaries] is Yi Seung-Jun’s In the Absence, a terse, harrowing, infuriating account of the sinking of the South Korean ferry Sewol that took more than 300 lives in 2014.” 
The New York Times

“In exacting and calm detail In the Absence shows the disaster unfold and all the ways it could have been avoided. But it also sticks around for the aftermath, which included the Candlelight Protests and the eventual impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.” 
Vanity Fair

“Among the Academy Award’s nominated documentaries, the best short is the staggering story told in Yi Seung-jun’s In the Absence. It is an extraordinary portrait of the grotesque official incompetence involved, as everyone, including the subsequently disgraced president Park Geun-hye, entered an almost catatonic state of indecisiveness and buck-passing as the catastrophe unfolded.” 
The Guardian

“The indisputable cinematic highlight among this year’s strong crop of Academy Award documentary short nominees.”