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‘Seoul Searching’ Director: ‘This Country is Half Made Up of Minorities, But Cinema Doesn’t Reflect That’

Diversity stood front and center at Wednesday night’s premiere of Benson Lee‘s ensemble dramedy “Seoul Searching” at the Regal L.A. Live on the next-to-closing-night at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

“I was a huge fan of John Hughes and the ’80s except for the depiction of Asians,” he told the crowd. “This country is half made up of minorities but the cinema doesn’t reflect that.”

Lee noted that “Seoul” — the story of foreign-born Korean teens returning to a summer camp in their homeland — is the third film centered on Asian-Americans during the past two decades after 1993’s “Joy Luck Club” and 2002’s “Better Luck tomorrow.” It’s set in 1986, the same year that Lee attended such a camp.

The film debuted at Sundance in January — 17 years after Lee had first come up with the script — with a price tag of $2.2 million. “It’s not the kind of film that people automatically want to finance,” he noted.

The film is an American-Korean-Chinese co-production, produced by Lee and Korean-American Andrea Chung. L.A.-based firms Bowery Hills Entertainment and Mondo Paradiso Films produced and China’s Wonder Vision funded it. Lee opted to cast actors of mixed ethnicities: Korean, Japanese, Korean-American, Korean-African American, Chinese-American, British-Korean, Spanish-Korean, German-Korean and Canadian Korean.

“Half of them are experienced actors and the other half I found on Facebook,” he noted Wednesday at the Q&A following the well-received screening.

Lee also announced that he will be starting an Indiegogo campaign next week to raise about $500,000 in funds for theatrical distribution, rather than going the VOD route. “This is the kind of film that ought to be seen in a nice big theater like this,” he said.

The most experienced cast member is Korean actor Cha In-Pyo, who portrays a teacher. “I went to college at Rutgers, where I felt a lot of what the students feel in the film,” he said.

Korean-American actor Ken Jeong said he became an ardent supporter of “Seoul Searching.” After seeing it at Sundance, he became an exec producer.

“It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It makes me laugh and cry. I’ll do anything I can to help out.”

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