On embracing changes and your ‘whole’ self
Whether you’re a Blink or a newcomer to K-pop, Caroline Suh’s Netflix documentary, BLACKPINK: Light up the Sky, is a refreshing and intimate portrayal of how BLACKPINK transformed into Korea’s leading girl group and worldwide superstars.
Light up the Sky follows BLACKPINK members, Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa as they recall their rise to fame. Viewers get a glimpse into each member’s journey and perspective on beginning as trainees to debuting as K-pop rookies to dominating music charts as a global girl group.
Light up the Sky shines brightness through Suh’s thoughtful touches that humanize BLACKPINK as individuals who came together for their love of music. She dives into each member’s story, showcasing their initial hopes, tribulations, perseverance, and future aspirations. As each member tells their story, they speak in the language they are most comfortable with. Moments like these and the ‘human’ touches Suh sprinkles throughout Light up the Sky illuminates BLACKPINK’s relaxed nature, their dedication to music, and steadfast camaraderie.
We spoke to Suh about her thought process behind Light up the Sky and how the documentary has impacted her.
Timid: How did you get into directing?
Caroline Suh: So I kind of fell into documentaries. I actually went to graduate school for Urban Planning, which was a huge waste of time. Then I thought I would become a journalist and got an internship at PBS in New York. This was when I realized that I really loved the visual side of things. From that point on, I started as a PA then worked my way up to producing, and eventually, I got to direct.
T: That’s amazing! So jumping right in. What was your perspective on K-pop before directing Light up the Sky, and did it change after you completed the documentary?
CS: I didn’t really know much about K-pop. I have a nephew in high school who knows everything about it. So I knew a little bit about K-pop from him. Generally, I knew what people had said about it. For example, having these Hogwarts-like training schools and being very manufactured. The groups are brought together, then the music would be written for them, and the groups would just perform it. After spending time with BLACKPINK and being in the recording studio, I saw that it is actually much more collaborative. You don’t really hear the BLACKPINK members speak at length very often, but I wanted to show them as people who had a history before making music professionally. They had their own will and agency.
T: Throughout Light up the Sky, you provide an intimate view of BLACKPINK, like who they are on and off the stage. In your directing, how did you try to humanize them?
CS: It was pretty simple. We wanted to make sure we were spending time with them one-on-one; to have that kind of quiet time with each of the members. But we also wanted to spend time with them in pairs where they can bounce off each other. Most importantly, we just really listened to them about what they wanted to do or didn’t want to do. We wanted everything to be genuine.
Those things altogether created an atmosphere where BLACKPINK felt comfortable as individuals.
T: On that note, I noticed that the members spoke in their native language or sometimes switched between languages. What was the thought process behind that?
CS: We wanted them to speak in whatever language they felt most comfortable with. Sometimes, my parents speak a combination of Korean and English. So we wanted BLACKPINK to feel totally at home when they were telling their stories, and while we were filming, the members would naturally change languages.
T: Changing things up a bit before we wrap up. How would you describe each member in one word?
Jenny’s word would be honest. Jisoo would be mature. Lisa would be easygoing, and Rose would be ambitious.
T: So, for our last question, the second issue of Timid focuses on metamorphosis. How has this documentary shaped or changed you on a personal level?
CS: This isn’t really a change, but I had a different kind of connection to this film. I was talking to my sister, and I said, “I don’t really know why, but I have a special affection for it.” My sister responds, “Well, of course, they’re Korean girls.”
That’s the connection. It’s the first time I’ve had a personal connection in terms of storytelling. The film highlights the simplicity and sweetness of BLACKPINK’s story. That was different for me.
BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky is now streaming on Netflix