Movie Review: SM Town’s I Am

By William Kustiono & Michelle Xia

Lights, in position, queue music! Over 300,000 fans gathered on April 30, 2012 to see some of the most famous Korean pop stars take the stage for the first time at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Korean Pop music (also known as K-pop) has quickly spread from the small peninsula into other cultures including America.

On August 13, 2013, AsianinNY had the privilege to see the special screening of SM Town: I AM. It is a documentary on the movie about SM Entertainment artists at Tribeca Cinemas. This documentary features 32 K-Pop artists, exposing their personalities through the behind-the-scene footage and exclusive video clips of their daily lives. This video was put together to celebrate and share the success of each artist’s stories and their journey to breakthrough in the American market. The featured stars are Kangta, BoA, TVXQ, Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, Shinee, and F(x).

SM Town is the project name used by S.M. Entertainment for their compilation albums. There are three big entertainment companies in Korea; S.M. Entertainment is one of them. S.M stands for Success Museum and is founded by Lee Soo-man in South Korea. S.M is also credited for starting and leading the Hallyu Wave (Korean Wave) throughout Asia and internationally.

The film was shot back in April 30, 2012. The performers attended a showcase for the movie held at the CJ CGV (CheilJedang Cultural Great Vital) cinema in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.

This documentary exposes a side of the performers, never seen or imagined of by viewers who enjoy watching Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry” or Girl’s Generation’s “Gee”. The movie starts with a personal commentary from each actors and actresses starting from Girls’ Generation band. Each member explains how they have two different personalities, a profession image and their personal selves. They share their thoughts on their current popularity and their expectations from the fans and other members in the group. From their deep personal opinion, they are all have a faith in each other’s ability; they work together, struggle together and not just as a group, but as a whole family in K-Pop. The whole organization, S.M. Entertainment is their family; they work for the sake of family.

SM Town: I Am shows that fame and talent doesn’t come naturally for all the performers. Many of the K-Pop stars in SM Town have committed themselves in the performing industry at a very young age and have gone through separate struggles; many were like U-know Yunho from TVXQ who started training in his early teens. Some struggled with the language barrier, like Victoria Song from F(x) who originated from China.

This movie documentary shows viewers that performers are hardworking people who bet their life, mind, energy, and time to dedicate themselves to become the next K-pop star. The performers practice together, eat together, and also sleep under one roof together. This special bond makes them feels like a new family. LeeTeuk from Super Junior comments that he wants to become a special person in this world by having more experiences. Max could not agree more and that he has the same ambition, as other members in S.M. Entertainment do, to become a superstar.

Many stars-to-be rely on the support from their group members and/or are motivated by their idols. Max from TVXQ remembers his first audition when he was younger; his role model is Kwon Bo ah, also known as BoA (Beat of Angel). BoA made a debut in 2000 with her first single “ID; Peace B”. BoA’s successful performance laid a foundation for the upcoming idols. Some idols such as Girls Generation were influenced by BoA’s style of performance.

The documentary’s theme song is “Dear My Family,” performed by all the singers featured in the documentary. It is a remake of the song from Yoo Yung-jin’s 2001 third album My Angel My Light, perfrormed by Kangta, Moon Hee-joon, Shinhwa, Fly to the Sky, BoA, and S.E.S. The full music video was released on April 24, 2012 on SM Town’s official Youtube channel. SM Town became the first Asian artists ever to perform at the Madison Square Garden on October 23, 2011. The performance was spectacular and it was record as a sold-out show.

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