Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Director Caroline Suh on Netflix's BLACKPINK doc Light Up The Sky: "I hope this humanizes them"

L to R: BLACKPINK (YG Entertainment/Netflix) and Caroline Suh (Caroline Suh)
L to R: BLACKPINK (YG Entertainment/Netflix) and Caroline Suh (Caroline Suh)
Graphic: The A.V. Club

After only four years, South Korean pop juggernaut BLACKPINK has already fashioned a legacy littered with shattered records. As recently as Monday, Soompi reported the latest milestone that group members Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé can boast at will: Their debut video,“BOOMBAYAH,” is the first K-pop debuting video to reach 1 billion views, and their third billion-viewed video in total. It’s an achievement that puts them among the likes of Lady Gaga (with whom they recently collaborated), Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, and other industry mainstays—a feat made even more impressive when you consider that the group only just released their first full-length LP this month.

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Those who wish to gain a better understanding of how these four women rose to pop prominence are in luck: October 14 will mark the premiere of Netflix’s first dedicated K-pop documentary BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky. Directed by Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat director and producer Caroline Suh, the production will trace the pop juggernaut’s path to success, from the group’s days of intense training to hitting the Coachella stage (and being the first Korean girl act to do so). Featuring a cache of unreleased footage amassed by YG Entertainment, Light Up The Sky offers an in-depth look that even diehard fans may not be used to seeing. We spoke briefly with Suh on what fans may gain from this documentary, the group’s relationship with producer Teddy Park, and her own awakening when it came to the phenomenon.


The A.V. Club: Light Up The Sky focuses on the formation and meteoric rise of BLACKPINK. Why focus on this particular portion of their journey?

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Caroline Suh: I guess it just comes out of my personal curiosity as to how these four people came together and became this phenomenon. What is it like to be them right now? What does it feel like? It came out of my own desire to understand who they were and how they got here.

AVC: This film covered a pretty lengthy time span. How much time did you personally get to spend with the women and how much of it relied on independently captured footage?

CS: We filmed during two blocks of time, one in the fall of last year and then in February of this year. So we were able to film them in the studio, see them do what they do with their downtime, and show how we see them today. We also knew that they had thousands and thousands of hours of archived video of them from their trainee days to Coachella to their world tour. We knew we wanted to use that and show how they evolved from being young kids to this phenomenon. So a lot of what was shown was what they had in their archive.

AVC: Doing a documentary on such a huge group must pose some creative challenges, especially when you’re making something for a fan base that’s so knowledgeable and often knows their developments hours before everyone else. Did that add any pressure to create a fresh experience for them?

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CS: Well, I wanted to understand the context of why they were so popular and why the fans loved them. But after getting an understanding of that, we kind of just focused on the story we were telling and we hope that it would bring something new to the super fans who already know everything about them and that they might have a chance to see the BLACKPINK members speak at length, which they don’t typically do by themselves.

AVC: Was there anything that struck you as a bit of a surprise during the creation process?

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CS: I think knowing how much they had to go through at training school and how they never knew if they would ever be part of a group said something really interesting about how tenacious and determined they are and how much faith they had. They’re all very strong willed and have their own minds. I think that was something that I didn’t necessarily know going into it. Seeing them as three dimensional people was interesting.

AVC: Another one of your works, Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, did a great job capturing Samin Nostrat’s bubbly personality and her love of culinary. Light Up The Sky did a similarly great job of capturing Jennie, Lisa, Rosé, and Jisoo’s dynamic as a group and close-knit friends. Do you have a guiding philosophy when it comes to documenting these distinct personalities?

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CS: I think I just try my best listen to them and kind of channel what makes them unusual or unique. With Samin, I thought no one had ever seen someone like her on television before, a woman who’s out there, getting messy, and also has a bohemian vibe in the way that she does. For BLACKPINK, I really wanted to make the film in a style that kind of embodies them. I wanted it to be very visual, fun, and escapist. If anything, I just try to be true to whatever subject I’m following. You know, I think I’ve come to a point where I just have to like the people who I am working with.

AVC: Do you have a favorite scene?

CS: I really enjoyed seeing them in the studio. I also loved seeing how a song gets made. I used to think that someone wrote a song, gave it to them, and they’d just record it. But it really is kind of a fluid process and they all collaborate together.

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AVC: Speaking of those scenes, what did you glean from BLACKPINK’S professional relationship with their producer, Teddy Park?

CS: Before we really sat down with Teddy, all of the. members talked about him as if he he was their older brother, someone they confide in—kind of like a wise sage. I listen to them, but I didn’t really see it until I actually sat down with Teddy and interviewed him. He was shy to be on camera and he really didn’t want to do it. But he just had so many amazing things to say about them and was so thoughtful. So I kind realized what it is about him that makes them trust him so much.

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AVC: If you were to summarize what you hope fans old and new take away from this film, what would it be?

CS:  I hope that the film humanizes all of the BLACKPINK members and that people can kind of see them as three dimensional people rather than just these idols or icons. I think it’s a simple story about following your dreams and working really hard and I hope that’s kind of inspiring.

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