South Korea has a problem with pills coming in from China that contain powdered dead fetus flesh (here is a report in the BBC and here’s one in the WSJ’s China Real Time). That it’s flesh isn’t the sole problem: it’s compounded by bacteria, perhaps of the super kind, being in some of the pills (and maybe the gelatin of the pills casing being made from boiled down leather and containing high level of Chromium). The pills are to, what else, boost stamina and are reported to be an aphrodisiac – probably as valuable as the ‘spurious Spanish Fly’ that ads in the back of men’s magazines tout. The Chinese government talks the usual line about regulations, but with placentas said to be full of goodness (even Hollywood starlets believe) and other folk beliefs, it’s not surprising at all. If there’s a buck to be made from the creduluous, it will be made.
This reminded me of a great short film by Hong Kong’s Fruit Chan, a director with a social conscience. Check out his features: The Longest Summer, Made in Hong Kong, and Little Cheung made about the 1997 handover of Hong Kong; and Durian, Durian and Hollywood Hong Kong about prostitution (also see the great Suzhou River for something on that theme, too). While some head for the real, some are carnivalesque and feature lots of pigs, fat men and sweat.
Back in 2004, he along with Park-Chan Wook and Takashi Miike contributed to a compendium film, Three Extremes. His contribtuion, Dumplings, about a woman who will do extraordinary things to keep her youthful appearance, was easily the strongest and gruesomest of the bunch, which is something, and features the bright candy camera work of Chris Doyle. It was also released as a full feature, which I haven’t bothered with because the short is so well-contained and explores themes of money, power, superficiality, and economic disparity well enough.
You can view the trailer here (embedding disallowed) and probably find the movie online or in Chinatown along with Chan’s other movies.