The inspiring, heartwarming, and challenging film about a Korean pastor who takes in and raises unwanted babies dropped in a box at his house in Seoul, South Korea, won the top prize – the "Best of Festival" Jubilee Award and the $101,000 cash prize that comes with it – at the 8th annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival earlier this month.
"The Drop Box," a 72-minute documentary film directed by 22-year-old Brian Ivie, is about South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak's efforts to use a drop box – built like a depository – to accept unwanted babies who are physically or mentally handicapped, or are just unwanted by their unwed mothers. Pastor Lee is the leader of Jusarang Community Church in Seoul, South Korea, the city in which the drop box is located.
These babies would have most likely ended on the streets without the drop box, which is available 24 hours a day and is built into a wall on Lee's home. Above the slot a sign reads, "A place to leave babies." There are blankets and towels inside of the lit and heated box to keep the baby warm, and when someone places a baby in the box, a bell rings to notify Pastor Lee, his wife and staff workers. Once brought inside the home, Lee, his wife and a small team of workers feed and clothe the babies.
Ivie was inspired to do the film after reading an article in the Los Angeles Times about Lee's work, and quickly decided to go to Korea to make the documentary.
In his acceptance speech on Feb. 9, Ivie said, "These kids are not mistakes. They are important." He went on to say, "I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it and I saw all these kids come through the drop box – it was like a flash from heaven, just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And God loves me still. When it comes to this sanctity of life issue, we must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary. This world is so much about self-reliance, self-worth, and self-esteem. It's a total illusion that we can be self-sufficient. Christ is the only thing that enables us."
In the documentary, Pastor Lee stated that one of the mothers said that "she had poison to kill both herself and her baby." He responded, "Don't do that. Come here with your baby." At the time of filming, Lee had 21 children in the home.
There are many other stories of parents who were unable to properly care for their babies. Baby Gi-ri's mother wrote in a letter, "I'm asking you to take my son. Please don't try to find me. And I am sorry."
Lee states that it is not only Korea that has this problem. "Globally, there are babies that die due to abandonment," he said. About 600 babies and children are abandoned every year on the streets of Seoul, South Korea. Only about 20 percent of those that are abandoned end up in child protective services, according to reports.
Ivie concluded in his grand prize acceptance speech, "I deified movies for 21 years of my life, and I made them my god, and it failed me. I'm done with that story. I'm done with that idol. And I promise in the fear of God that I will steward this investment, because I would rather tell the plainest truth with $100,000 than the most sophisticated technological lie with ten million dollars or one hundred million dollars."
"The Drop-box" also won The Best Sanctity of Life Film Award at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.
The film crew is currently in studio negotiations for a 2013 release of "The Drop Box." A set date for the film's release has not yet been announced.