Directed by Benson Lee
Official Selection, 2015 Sundance Film Festival
Gala Screening, 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival
Opening Night Film, 2015 CAAMFest
Holy hair gel. When an international airport doubles as an Asian American catwalk of glorious 1980s badassery, you know you’re in for a good time. Benson Lee’s SEOUL SEARCHING lets the sights and smells of kyopo teen spirit take over in a summer camp movie for the John Hughes fan in all of us. With a sparkling ensemble cast, SEOUL SEARCHING is an achievement – a feel-good genre film that is also utterly Asian American.
SEOUL SEARCHING delivers what a summer camp film should: an unlikely crew of friends, all those feelings, intoxicated quandaries. And most importantly, a sonic bath of music that will leave you crooning Erasure for days. Based loosely on Lee’s personal experience, a group of young Koreans from around the world converge in Seoul for a government-sponsored camp, a program designed to connect the offspring of overseas Koreans to the motherland, but which became legendary for hookups of another kind. What it means to “be Korean” may hang in the air, but much of the fun in SEOUL SEARCHING comes from dodging the question and reveling in the messiness of multiple geographies and cultural compasses. With heritage politics relegated to indelible background noise, Lee’s characters – an anarchic Sid Vicious, a wannabe Madonna pastor’s daughter, a racist military brat – care less about the historic protests happening outside and more about scoring the next case of soju.
SEOUL SEARCHING throws the invisible Asian stereotype out the window with a Doc Marten kick in the ass. And what a bench of actors to pull it off. The performances are smart, evocative, and spirited. With Korean celebrity Cha In-Pyo alongside a young all-star cast from around the world, Justin Chon (21 & Over) continues his string of crisp and crackly performances, while Jessika Van’s breathy dance between sultry camp and drama reaches transcendent heights in a drinking close-up for the ages. It’s a cast that feels like the future the way the cast of Breakfast Club did, but in a way that hits a little closer to home, on whichever continent that may be. It’s a future to hope for. –Christina Ree
Co-presented by: Korean American Coalition of San Diego