by director/co-writer Justin Chon
I have been in the entertainment industry for almost two decades now with the majority of my journey as a struggling Asian American actor. After much frustration playing typecast Asian roles, I felt compelled to take the responsibility of telling my own stories. I believe I offer a unique and authentic perspective of the Asian American experience in this country and realized my purpose was to give voices to the people in my community. The past couple of years have seen a rise in the demand for Asian American films with the studio successes of Crazy Rich Asians and Always Be My Maybe along with independent darlings like Searching and more recently The Farewell. The support behind these films has been groundbreaking in starting the movement and I’m thrilled with the direction that we are heading—but we are just touching the surface.
The passion for my film Ms. Purple comes from my own relationship with my sister and family. I’ve always found the sibling dynamic fascinating and wanted to examine more closely the depths of these connections. The extreme emotions between brothers and sisters have such an amazing range, from an undeniable bond of family to knowing just the right buttons to cause the most pain. Another important theme throughout the film is the idea of filial piety, about loyalty and deference to one’s parents. The sacrifice they made to immigrate to an unknown country to provide opportunity is immeasurable and you should take care of them toward the end of their life, but does that mean you should neglect your own?
And, finally, I set this story in Koreatown, Los Angeles, which also serves as its own character in the film. I grew up in Southern California and wanted to shine a different lens on Ktown, not the flashy nightlife that most people are accustomed to, but a more authentic existence showcasing the struggles of everyday people trying to survive. Both siblings, Kasie (Tiffany Chu) and Carey (Teddy Lee), have lived in Koreatown their whole lives and were raised by a single father after their mother abandoned them, leaving deep scars that they are constantly trying to overcome. Ultimately this story is about mending a relationship between a brother and sister and the regrouping of a family in the final days of their father’s life.
As a filmmaker, my specific goal is to bring empathy to my community, but beyond that, my macro goal is to show how we all coexist in the country as a whole. It’s the reason why my previous film Gook was just as much an African American story and why there is a Chicano thread that weaves throughout Ms. Purple. Thank you Landmark for showcasing my intimate family drama in your theaters and allowing me to share this film with a wider audience. As John Lennon once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”