Hello, my friends. You know what's up. It's time to meet the Angry Reader of the Week, spotlighting you, the very special readers of this website. Over the years, I've been able to connect with a lot of cool folks, and this is a way of showing some appreciation and attention to the people who help make this blog what it is. This week's Angry Reader is Benson Lee.
Who are you?
I'm Benson Lee, a Korean American filmmaker, and my movie Seoul Searching is making its Los Angeles premiere at the LA Film Festival next week on Wednesday, June 17th and you're all invited!
What are you?
I'm a lot of things...but the two most important things I am are a filmmaker and a father.
I'm a filmmaker who has always strived to make an impact on my audience by focusing on themes that celebrate what we have in common in areas where you would least expect it. For example, my documentary Planet B-boy showed how b-boys from all over the world were united through dance, and how they used it as a medium to express the deepest parts of their being through the culture of hip hop.
I'm also a father who loves to shower my son with affection. I tell him how much I love him all the time and hug him every chance I get because when I was growing up, my dad's form of affection was asking me: “Did you eat?”
Where are you?
I go where my movies take me. Currently, I'm in Los Angeles preparing for our LA premiere at LA Film Festival and my Indie GoGo campaign, both of which are launching on the exact same day.
Where are you from?
Tough question because people get a sense of who you are based on where you were born and raised. I was born in Toronto, Canada and moved to the U.S. when I was nine years old. I was raised in Philadelphia, and then lived in New York City, Honolulu, Paris, London, Seoul, and now LA. That's where I'm from.
What do you do?
I'm an independent filmmaker, which means I will always struggle to make movies that are important to me. It took me sixteen years to make Seoul Searching. No one was willing to take a chance on a film with an all Asian cast that takes place in Seoul in 1986. But, now that it's done, it was worth the wait because I'm really proud of how it turned out.
What are you all about?
I'm about making movies that help to advance the presence of Asian Americans in our cinema. What does that mean? It means, I'm devoted to making movies (and someday television) with Asian American characters as leads, portrayed as normal characters with depth, played by real Asian American actors!
I'm also about getting Seoul Searching out in theaters to the widest audience possible. In the last 25 years, there have only been two Asian American films that were widely distributed in theaters: Joy Luck Club (1993) and Better Luck Tomorrow (2003). TWO. Of course there have been a number of great Asian American films made in the past quarter century, but they've rarely received the distribution they deserve. This has a lot to do with the fact that the industry doesn't deem Asian American films as viable. Even though Seoul Searching received great reviews from top critics, standing ovations after every screening at Sundance, I was told by a distributor that Asian American movies are a tough sell because Asians only constitute six percent of the U.S. population. In other words -- we're not viable at the box office.
What makes you angry?
It makes me angry to have my movie judged by film distributors who are basing their decisions on the ethnicity of my cast. Making assumptions that my movie will only cater to Asian Americans. Making assumptions that non-Asians wouldn't be interested in watching my movie. Making assumptions that we will accept non Asian actors playing Asian roles.