Jessika Van returns to the silver screen in “Seoul Searching,” a comedy by Benson Lee which follows a group of Korean teens from all over the world who are sent to a cultural heritage school in Seoul during the summer of 1986. Van plays Grace Park, a pastor’s daughter from Cherry Hill, New Jersey who worships Madonna the way her father worships God. Grace doesn’t even need to point that Madonna is her favorite singer as she dresses exactly like the Material Girl and even performs an acapella version of “Like a Virgin.” She also excels at teasing all the young boys who lust after her constantly, but she soon meets her match when an especially rebellious teenager catches her eye.
Van started her career in music where she was a classically-trained pianist and singer, and she won various awards and even performed for the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. She made her breakthrough as an actress playing Becca, Queen of the Asian Mafia, on MTV’s critically acclaimed comedy “Awkward,” and she trained in weapons and martial arts for her role in the first-person shooter game “Battlefield 4.” Videos of her work can be found on her YouTube page.
I spoke with Van while she was in Los Angeles to promote “Seoul Searching.” She talked about the research she did into the 1980’s and Madonna to prepare for her role, what she learned about Korea while filming there, and of how she managed to peel back Grace’s emotional armor to reveal the person hiding underneath. She also spoke of how “Seoul Searching” is much more than just an Asian American film as it touches on issues that are universal to everybody and anybody.
Check out the interview below and be sure to visit the movie’s website (www.seoulsearchingthemovie.com) for more information.
In Benson Lee’s “Seoul Searching,” Justin Chon plays Sid Park, a rebellious teenager and a punk rocker whose truancy and defiance of adult authority knows no bounds. Sid is one of many teenagers forced to spend the summer of 1986 in Seoul at a camp for “gyopo” or foreign born teenagers where they can learn more about their homeland, Korea. It’s no surprise that he doesn’t want to be there and he tries numerous ways to get kicked out, but eventually his tough guy persona is broken through by a teacher who sees that Sid yearns for the acceptance of his father. What results is the most important summer Sid will ever have in his young life.
Chon is one of the most prolific Asian-American actors working in movies today, and he is best known for playing Eric Yorkie in the “Twilight” series. His career started in 2005 when he appeared in such television shows as “Jack & Bobby” and “Taki & Luci,” and he became known to audiences worldwide when he played Peter Wu in the Disney Channel film “Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior.” Chon also starred as Sonny, an immigrant who becomes a notorious gangster, in “Revenge of the Green Dragons” which was executive produced by Martin Scorsese. In addition, he has also directed several digital shorts that are featured on his YouTube page.
I spoke with Chon recently while he was in Los Angeles to promote “Seoul Searching.” While he was a student at USC, he spent time abroad in South Korea and explained how he was able to draw on that experience for his role. He also talked about the 80’s song he wished the movie’s director, Benson Lee, had included on its soundtrack, and he makes it clear why “Seoul Searching” deserves to be seen as more than just an Asian-American movie.
Check out the interview below, and please visit “Seoul Searching’s” website to find out where the movie is playing near you.
It took him 16 years, but writer and director Benson Lee finally succeeded in bringing his most personal film, “Seoul Searching,” to the silver screen. The film is largely autobiographical as it is based on his own experience of being part of a summer school camp in Seoul, South Korea which proved to be one of the best summers of his life. What he attended was a special summer camp for “gyopo” or foreign born teenagers where they could spend their summer in Seoul to learn about their motherland. The intentions of this program were more than honorable but the activities of the teens were not, and we watch as controversies and revelations unfold for the teens and the adults.
Lee is an award-winning Korean-American filmmaker who has worked in drama, documentary and commercial production for many years. His first feature film, “Miss Monday,” made him the first Korean-American filmmaker to be accepted to the Dramatic Competition of the Sundance Film Festival where he earned a Special Grand Jury Prize. His first documentary, “Planet B-Boy,” proved to be one of the top-grossing theatrical documentaries of 2008 in the United States. With “Seoul Searching,” Lee gives audiences something close to his heart as he shares his own experiences from when he was a teenager, and the film resonates with many universal themes.
I was fortunate enough to speak with Lee while he was in Los Angeles to promote “Seoul Searching,” and he could not have been nicer to talk with. Lee described how this project came about, the challenges of getting many 1980’s songs into it, and of whether he had to stay true to the events he experienced or instead to see where those events took him in a dramatic fashion. Furthermore, he made me realize how Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” affected him on a subconscious level before he even realized it.
Check out the interview below, and be sure to check out the website for “Seoul Searching” (www.seoulsearchingthemovie.com) for more information.