Film Review: Seoul Searching (2015) by Benson Lee 

What units “Seoul Looking” aside from different teen-oriented movies is it’s a story not solely about private wounds, but in addition of a nation’s deepest, lingering scars. Directed by Benson Lee, the film, which gained the the Finest Narrative Function Movie on the 2015 Philadelphia Asian American Movie Competition and was additionally an official entry to the Sundance Movie Competition, cleverly and pointedly lays down the cultural intricacies of id, each of the self and the nation-state. 

“Seoul Looking” relies on Lee’s real-life expertise the place younger Koreans like him who grew up in different international locations are made to rediscover and acquaint themselves with what it means to be Korean by way of a summer time camp. It’s a program developed by the South Korean authorities after its residents emigrated to different international locations following the battle between South and North Korea within the Fifties. 

The film takes us again to the time when the camp was held within the Eighties, a interval outlined by the colourful panoply of music, trend types and political ideologies. This variety is clear within the youngsters who take part within the mentioned camp, with black-leather donning Sid Park, pop star Madonna-wannabe Grace Park, military-trained Mike Tune and a hiphop trio which reveals off their rapping talents at each second they will. These are simply the Koreans who hail from America, nevertheless. There’s additionally Sergio, the Korean-Mexican who makes it his mission to candy discuss and appeal all the women, and Klaus Kim, the upright, goal-oriented lad from Germany, who in comparison with the remainder of the group, can really perceive and communicate the Korean language.

On the onset, will probably be simple to dismiss the film as simply one other teen flick peppered with clichés, as nothing however a pastiche of movies helmed by American director John Hughes, the place there’s the designated insurgent, the jock, the nerd and the princess. To take action, nevertheless, could be an enormous mistake, as “Seoul Looking” really makes use of these stereotypes to interrupt the stereotype about second-generation South Koreans who, by circumstances past their management, must navigate the advanced journey of migration and the damning causes and penalties of diaspora.

“Seoul Looking” successfully makes use of teenage angst as a plot machine to hint the roots of division inside Korean households, the aspiration to be a mannequin minority in addition to to unflinchingly, unapologetically carry to the fore the dangerous tradition of machismo and misogyny in South Korea. Lee, who additionally wrote the screenplay, introduces us to the sort of youth whose antipathy in direction of the world doesn’t simply stem from the standard confusion and anger that comes from adolescence, however from cultural variations, patriarchy, colonization and strain to not be the Different in a society you might be born into, however doesn’t really belong in.

That is crystallized within the struggles skilled by Sid, Sergio, Klaus and Mike however moreso with the search of Kris Schultz, one other participant within the camp, for her Korean mother. Her mom has to provide her up for adoption and conceal her from her new household resulting from stigma and prejudice. The painful stress of diverging cultural beliefs, approaches to masculinity and types of parenthood are on one hand, proven poignantly within the interplay and unlikely bond fashioned between Sid and one of many lecturers within the camp, Mr. Kim.

The ensemble solid evinces ebullient chemistry. Jessica Van is sultry and feisty as Grace Park, the pastor’s daughter who explores the world of raging hormones with Sid, performed by Justin Chon. Albert Kong is indignant and unbending because the navy trainee who continues to view Japan as an enemy resulting from its previous occupation of South Korea. The standouts right here, although, are Rosalina Lee, who performs Schultz and Esteban Ahn, whose portrayal of Sergio is humorous however not offensively comical. 

The film turns into most lovable although when Cho, Ahn and Teo Yeoo, who performs Klaus, are in a single body, their scenes of friendship, shenanigans and realizations lighting up the display screen. Chon’s storyline with In-Pyo Cha, who performs Mr. Kim, additionally deserves to be highlighted, as the 2 convey the multilayered pathos of generational and cultural divide between Korean dad and mom and their children. 

The movie establishes the East meets West intersection by way of colourful manufacturing, from the flowery costume designs of Shirley Kurata to the energetic signature New Wave sound of the Eighties utilized by by Woody Pak. Pak is ready to create a key second bridging the 2 worlds by way of a reference to South Korea’s very personal “Madonna,” Kim Wan Solar. 

That is additionally a movie the place the setting pushes the plot ahead, with Lee utilizing particular locations in South Korea not solely for aesthetic or decorative functions, however for baring necessary alternatives for each confronting and therapeutic wounds from historic conflicts. The DMZ or demilitarized zone and a standard village function a gathering level, each actually and proverbially, the place the members of the camp notice that their perceived foes, college students from Japan, are literally buddies as they’re additionally youngsters of Korean dad and mom who emigrated to Japan and the place former enemies can develop into allies. 

“Seoul Looking” is a cinematic elision of illustration, with the angst and aspiration of younger Korean immigrants honored and celebrated with the nostalgic jejune of popular culture. It is a movie which succeeds in giving voice to rebels with a trigger.  

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