By Andrew Hamlin
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Our parents always have a story about how they met. They may not share it with their children, and they may not share all of it. But a story always lies in the past. In the case of filmmaker Jaehuen Chung, the crucial ingredient was chicken.
Whenever his family ate chicken for dinner, Chung recalled, “My mother insisted on having rotisserie chicken on their first date. My father would say it showed how ‘bold’ she was because rotisserie chicken meant getting your fingers dirty, and he felt that her dismantling the chicken in front of the guy she met for the first time showed how comfortable she felt with him. Whereas, my mother would counter that she wanted to get messy because she did not think much of him.”
Mom eventually thought enough of Dad to marry him, of course. Jaehuen Chung grew up in Seoul, South Korea, but went to Los Angeles to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree at the American Film Institute (AFI). He still lives in L.A. with his own family.
His film in the Children’s Festival, “Mr. and Mrs. Kim,” is 15 minutes long and serves as Chung’s thesis film at AFI. It deals with a young boy growing up and learning to appreciate one’s parents, even and especially when they embarrass us. It also explores flights of fancy, as it shifts from reality to a daydreaming world.
“I was and still am very much a daydreamer,” Chung explained. “I went to a Christian high school, where we would have a service once a week. I would sit in the very back row imagining aliens flying into our gym and me unveiling my ‘Super Saiyan’ power to shoot off ki blasts and defeat them. The imagery was very vivid and clear, at least in my head. When the time came to make a thesis, I wanted to expand on this idea of projecting one’s imagination onto the very space he is in.”
Chung got a job working as a director’s assistant to Joon-ho Bong on Bong’s “Snowpiercer,” and he met actor Steve Park on the set. Park plays Mr. Kim in the Chung film, and he introduced Chung to Alexandra Bokyun Chun, who plays Mrs. Kim. The little boy’s friend, Harper, is a part written especially for child actress Lola Wayne Villa.
“We had the hardest time finding our lead, Joshua” — who would eventually be played by a child actor actually named Joshua Kim. “We had many auditions, but even in LA, it was hard to find a Korean boy who can act.”
“Joshua was the very last guy we auditioned with exactly eight days before the principal photography began and he turned out to be the one. He had a shade of shyness and charming smile that fit the part so perfectly.”
Chung will appear at the Northwest Film Forum to promote his film. He hasn’t visited the city before, but he vows, “I love gray and rain.” He loved the Seattle SuperSonics with Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, and his favorite music includes such local acts as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Postal Service, and Death Cab for Cutie.
When asked about future projects, Chung mentioned that working on the “Kim” story inspired him to work on a story about an older child, a teenager, or possibly a young adult.
“I tend to collect bits and pieces before putting them together to make a story,” he concluded. “Currently, I am in the collection phase. But, it will be most likely be a story about a family.”
The Children’s Film Festival Seattle 2017 runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 11 at the Northwest Film Forum, located at 1515 12th Ave. For tickets, visit www.childrensfilmfestivalseattle.nwfilmforum.org/live/page/calendar/4243.
Andrew can be reached at email@example.com.