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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Blackpink: Light Up the Sky portrays a group of young women in a popular K-pop band who have made sacrifices and trained hard to find success. Their story isn't one of easy fame, lavish wealth, or bad behavior, which make the four members of the band healthy role models for kids. The documentary reveals the years of work that go into becoming a member of a K-pop band. Individually, the girls reveal insecurities, disappointments, and some regrets in interviews, making them much more human than their polished public images might suggest. They're not allowed to smoke, drink, or get tattoos, and one band member mentions that her mother manages her finances. Even so, the band's meticulously planned wardrobe, makeup, lyrics, and choreography comes across as intentionally sexy. In a sequence of interviews with fans, teen girls around the world profess their love and admiration for the band; one fan calls them the "baddest bitches."
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What's the story?
Jennie, Rosé, Jisoo, and Lisa are the four members of K-pop band BLACKPINK. BLACKPINK: LIGHT UP THE SKY is a documentary about their lives, training, and global success as a group where the four talk about their early childhoods and take viewers behind the scenes of their musical performances. Jennie lived with a family and went to school for several years in New Zealand before auditioning and making it into the Seoul-based K-pop training school of YG Entertainment. There, she met fellow trainees and eventual bandmates Jisoo, Australia-raised Rosé, and the Thai-born Lisa, who moved to Korea alone at age 14. In interviews complemented by archive footage and home videos and pictures, the four recount the difficulties of the training process and talk about what they put into each performance. The group came to fame in the US thanks to a 2019 performance in Coachella, and they've had record-breaking global success as a band. The documentary also interviews their songwriter-producer Teddy Park, who talks about the music and living up to the hype of the band's success.
Is it any good?
This compelling documentary pulls back the curtain on the wildly successful Korean musical group as well as the system that manufactures polished K-pop bands. Because they are contrived as such a perfected and professional package, you can't help but assume Blackpink: Light Up the Sky has a stamp of approval for the brand. Still, it's fascinating to learn about the process and hear the band members reveal the emotional and sometimes physical toll a decade of training and work has taken on them. The young women seem to have few friends or hobbies, much less time, outside their foursome. One questions how she's supposed to be a role model to her fans, another is already thinking about when Blackpink will be replaced by a younger group. They're still learning how to actually have fun on stage.
Director Caroline Suh skillfully blends news and concert clips with individual and group interviews and older photos and clips. Fortunately for her, theirs is a well-documented generation. We get to hear and see some of the girls' experiences in the training school, a grueling factory with 14-hour workdays and monthly "elimination" performances. The girls recall the school as not having a "very happy vibe," and the parents of one encouraged her to drop out and "come home." The fact that none did is remarkable. Curiously, like the product of the group themselves, we don't see any of the faces of the "CEO" or others involved in the training school, those engineers pulling the actual strings. Interviews with two producers/songwriters don't bring a lot to the table. All told, the documentary leaves you hoping for the best for these young women, especially off stage.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rapid rise to success of Blackpink. What did you know about the group before, and what did you learn from Blackpink: Light Up the Sky?
Blackpink's producer questions the concept of "K-pop" itself. What was his critique? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
The young stars of Blackpink all moved away from home at a young age and trained very hard during their teenage years to make it in show business. How would you compare that life to the typical teenager's experience? Do you view it as positive? Why or why not?
What did you learn about Korean culture or language from watching this film?
What character strengths do the band members embody?
- On DVD or streaming: October 14, 2020
- Cast: Jennie Kim, Ji-soo Kim, Lalisa Manoban
- Director: Caroline Suh
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Music and Sing-Along
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 79 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- MPAA explanation: TV-14
- Last updated: February 18, 2021
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