As I was driving to my office in Koreatown earlier this week, I saw a man riding a bicycle.
He was wearing a white t-shirt with the words “End Racism” in red. It was simple, but the message held an even stronger meaning after seeing the atrocity that happened in Charlottesville, VA over the weekend. It’s no secret that race relations and culture clashes have been a dark stain on America’s history, and it is even more unsettling that the continuation of those racist practices are still prevalent today.
Writer/Director/Actor Justin Chon was just a boy during the L.A. Riots of 1992. He has since taken to filmmaking to express his experience as a Korean-American living through one of the city’s most infamously tumultuous times which, until now, has generally been considered a black/white race issue. Chon’s latest film, “Gook,” gives audiences a fresh perspective of how the Rodney King riots also affected the Asian population living in Los Angeles at that time. From destroyed businesses to strained cross-cultural relationships, this Sundance award-winning drama uses black and white cinematography to tell a truly unique story that celebrates the artistry in diverse voices.
The timing of “Gook” hitting theaters this Friday seems very relevant, and I urge everyone to see it.
“Gook” tells the story of two Korean American brothers, Eli (Justin Chon) and Daniel (David So), who struggle to make ends meet by working in their late father’s shoe store, located in the South Central neighborhood of Paramount (a stone’s throw from Compton). The brothers’ tough exterior of gold chains and foul language may seem intimidating to outsiders, but that doesn’t deter 11-year-old Kamilla (Simone Baker) from hanging around them any chance she gets. Kamilla is a street smart, orphaned black girl whose dysfunctional upbringing has her searching for the security of a family in unconventional ways. As racial tension runs at an all time high, the special bond between Kamilla, Eli and Daniel is put to the test in a major and life altering way.
Clearly, there is something special in “Gook.” The Sundance Audience Award winner has resonated with all who have seen it– whether it be for its bold cinematography or emotionally-charged (although at times, melodramatic) storyline, we are reminded about the importance of community during times of oppression. The L.A. riots happened 25 years ago, and judging by the state of our current political climate, we still have a long way to go until we reach liberty and justice for all. The timing of “Gook” hitting theaters this Friday seems very relevant, and I urge everyone to see it.
“Gook” is not rated. 94 minutes. Opening the Friday at Arclight Hollywood and the Regal LA Live Stadium Theater, nationally on August 25.