In Korean, “hanaan” means promised land. Deported to the Far East of the USSR under Stalin, the fourth-generation Koreans living in Tashkent, may have integrated into society but remain subject to daily racism, are entangled in the drug trade and criminality—their Hanaan is certainly miles away from their current home. Six years after a friend was killed in gang-related violence, the older and wiser Stas (Stanislav Tyan) has become a policeman, working undercover to infiltrate a gang of Uzbek heroin dealers.
But in the course of doing his dangerous job, the corruption he discovers pushes him to the limits, and into a downward spiral emblematic of the destiny of the Korean outsider in the post-Soviet society. In his stark debut, which plays as a Korean-Uzbek version of Serpico (with kind of a nod to The French Connection 2), director Ruslan Pak—who also acts as Shin, Stas’s friend who escapes to Korea—shot down and dirty in the streets, alleyways and apartments of his hometown, using a DSLR camera and without the permission of local authorities, as with the subject matter and graphic scenes of drug use, governmental approval of the script was impossible.
Hanaan is in part based on the life of Stanislav Tyan, who in his first-ever screen performance reenacts many of the excruciating events he lived through; this brings a level of unforgettable realism rarely seen in films about drug abuse from any corner of the globe, a darkness in contrast with the vibrant colours of Tashkent.Mark Peranson