Story, photos and video by Jana Monji
Wednesday night’s Kore Asian Media screening for John Cho’s new film, Searching at the AMC Century City 15, was a decidedly somber affair. The topic–a man’s search for his missing daughter–isn’t meant to generate smiles although there are a few laughs during the film itself. Cho himself was serious in his red carpet interviews and his introductory statements.
While the mood was almost the polar opposite to the celebratory vibe generated by the rom-com Crazy Rich Asians earlier this month, there was a common thread–one of solidarity for Asian representation.
The movie plunges into unfamiliar territory that will be all too familiar to those plugged into social media and the complexities of cyberspace: Most of what we see is translated through the lens of smartphones, laptops, YouTube and vlogs, using competing platforms of Apple and PCs. A recently widowed father (Cho) distances himself from memories of his late wife (Sara Sohn) and when his 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) disappears after a bio study group, he realizes that he doesn’t really know her. Using her computer, he learns that her social media “friends,” aren’t real friends at all as he and his stoner bachelor brother (Joseph Lee) try to find out if she ran away or if something more nefarious occurred.
Sohn noted that “this movie talks about the bad things but also the good things that social media can bring.”
Cho said about social media and children, “You’re opening your child up to a lot of people; you’ve got to monitor that.” But he also felt, “What the movie emphasized for me is how I’ll never be able to catch up to the computer literacy of my children. They’re always going to be a step ahead of you.”
La felt there’s “a lot of pressure to know exactly how to navigate it (social media). But you have to realize, “You can’t control what other say or think about you.”
The topic of marijuana comes up in the movie and Joseph Lee who plays the stoner brother confessed that “Yes, I have tried it. I currently do not.” Yet he admonished, “There no harm in it unless you’re really lazy…then just give it up and chase your dreams.”Lee felt, the movie is “so interactive” because it deals with social media that this film is a “different experience.”
While Lee wondered if the movie will change how people react to him on social media, La noted that “because of the reaction to the movie a lot of people reaching out that I don’t know.” She feels she has “to be careful who I connect with.”
About the recent revelations about Kelly Marie (Loan) Tran, Cho said, “I try to stay away from looking at myself too much. I don’t think I’ve experienced the kind of vitriol she received. ”
Lee said, “I think she’s a badass and I support her 110 percent.”
La said, “I actually read that article two days ago because my brother sent it to me. I think she’s brave and courageous for coming out about what happened to her.”
Sohn felt Tran’s experience was unfortunate and heartbreaking. “I have not yet experienced at that level,” but she has ” had some negative comments.” Social media “can be a powerful tool to do good” but one “can corrupt it”
Similarly, La said now there are “strangers talking to me and saying inappropriate things,” but “I’m trying to stay strong.
As for the audience’s reaction to the movie, Cho said, “I want them to have a great time. It’s meant to be seen on the big screen.” The movie is “an example of how we’re living today, which is we are increasingly in our devices.” Yet another aspect of the movie is “something that’s very personal to me.” Recalling the premiere earlier this year at Sundance, Cho said when he saw an audience watch it for the first time, it was wonderful to see “a family that looked like mine” because there’s “the wholeness of that that it’s an all Asian American family.” Cho is the first Asian American actor leading a Hollywood thriller.
“Searching” premiered at Sundance on January 21, 2018 and was released today, August 24 (limited). It won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, the NEXT Audience Award at Sundance and the Sundance Institute / Amazon Studios Narrative Producer Award at the Sundance Film Festival.
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