Korean-American filmmaker Benson Lee set out on a mission: to create a film that encapsulated the rebellious energy and genuine heart of his favorite Brat Pack films … minus the horrible Asian stereotypes that beleaguered them. Think Sixteen Candles minus Long Duk Dong’s exaggerated and unnecessary “Engrish” and his hapless personality.
After 14 years of dreaming, planning, filming and producing, Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching is now in post-production and (almost) ready for a theater near you.
After exploring the lives of Asian B-boys in his documentary Planet B-Boy, Benson Lee chronicles the fictional yet realistic misadventures of Korean teens at a summer camp in Seoul in the ’80s vein of Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, and Korea’s own Sunny. Lee drew inspiration from his own Korean camp experiences from 1986 to craft characters like punk rocker Sid Park and Madonna-wannabe Grace Park.
But Lee didn’t just limit his scope to Koreans from America; Seoul Searching also explores the Korean diaspora through half-Korean characters and issues of transethnic adoptions. Along with first loves and everyday teenage angst, all the characters face identity issues, much like the teens Lee met during that summer in 1986. Lee stated in an interview with The Korea Times:
… There was always the question: Am I Korean, or am I German? Am I Korean or American? And we never felt like we were either. The most important thing about that summer was that we realized — because we were with very diverse people who were going through the same thing — ‘I’m actually both.’ The dichotomy doesn’t really need to exist.
Seoul Searching‘s cast is stacked with faces both familiar — Jessika Van (MTV’s Awkward), Kang Byul (God’s Gift, Rooftop Prince), Justin Chon (The Twilight Saga), Cha In-pyo (Endless Love), and J-pop songstress Crystal Kay — and unfamiliar alike. Years of virtual open calls via Facebook helped to fill the ensemble cast with actors and actresses who may have had few opportunities in traditional Hollywood films. Says Lee:
When it comes to Asian actors, there are many, but not enough. This has a lot to do with A) their parents don’t want them to act and B) there’s not enough good roles to inspire people to devote their lives to acting. But there is tons of talent out there to be discovered. I just know I can find them through Facebook.
Thanks to Lee’s unconventional methods and desire for proper representation, the film’s cast boasts a number of actors with mixed ethnicities: Spanish-Korean, Chinese-American, Afro-Korean, German-Korean, and British-Korean.
Do you plan on doing some Seoul Searching, SB readers?