By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Michelle Kim, screenwriter, co-director, and star of the new dramatic film “The Tree Inside,” is coming to the Local Sightings Film Festival. She grew up in Vancouver, B.C., and is the daughter of a Korean mother and a Canadian father of English ancestry.
“The neighborhood I lived in was incredibly multicultural and there were several multiracial families who lived on the same street. So being Korean-Canadian was completely normal. I think my early years gave me a strong foundation in being comfortable with having different cultural identities and influences exist inside me. When I went to the university, the bubble burst, of course, and I quickly realized I was a minority in the vast scheme of things.”
Asked where she drew the line between her heritages, she replied that that was difficult, but she did feel an outsider’s point of view, relative to mainstream culture. She said that as a result, she can draw from a different experience and comment on the existing mainstream structures in place.
An aspiring author who’s just put the finishing touches on her novel “Running Through Sprinklers,” Kim swears she never set out to become an actor, screenwriter, or director.
She did grow up watching many great films, and considers among others, the work of Nora Ephron, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Tim Burton, Mike Leigh, and Quentin Tarantino as heavily influential on her own work.
“I still admire how Richard Linklater depicts romantic love so authentically,” Kim elaborated, “and the realism and naturalism captured by the French new wave directors like Agnes Varda and Jean-Luc Godard.”
“The Tree Inside” follows one woman and her lover through the unpredictable and sometimes rocky course of one year, and four seasons. It was filmed over one year. Kim explained that because the film was mainly guided improvisation, “We had to be fine with things changing — and embraced it — but the overall story I intended to tell remained in place.”
She keeps a home base in Canada, but considers South Korea a second home. She’s visiting there soon to attend the Asian Film Market at the Busan Film Festival. She lists her favorite Korean directors as Kim Ki-Duk, Lee Chang-Dong, Hong Sang-Soo, and Park Chan-Wook.
“South Korean films,” she went on, “are dynamic, subversive, sexy, dark, and not afraid to have horrible and sad endings, which I love. There are a lot of female South Korean filmmakers starting to emerge now, and I’m very excited about that because it’s been mainly male-dominated over there.”
Asked about future plans, Kim mentioned that she’s produced a new film from her co-director, Rob Leickner, called “The Lonely Light of Home.” She is also writing a film in Korean and hopes to have that produced soon. Her novel, which she’s been struggling with for many years, “Running Through Sprinklers,” is scheduled for publication by Simon & Schuster in 2018.
“The making and editing of this film actually gave me a deeper understanding of story and structure,” she remarked on her novel. “And finally, I finished it.”
“The Tree Inside” plays Sept. 24 at 9 p.m., as part of the Local Sightings Film Festival at the Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle. Michelle Kim will be on hand for a Q&A afterward. For more information, visit localsightings.org/tickets.
Andrew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.