Premiere Day: This Is It

There is a lot of chatter in the community about fear of the film being banned or censored because of the violence and the emergence of the crazy Korean American kid in Virginia.
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This is going to be a scattered blog. I'm about five hours away from the premiere of the film. I am blogging to distract myself.

Tonight is going to be the first time I'll see the film with a real audience. I had been fine all week until today. Right now, I am nervous as hell. Up until now, the prep, the shoot, all the editing, the music, the entire creation of this film has been a theoretical exercise in how to make a good movie. Tonight will be the real litmus test.

Even more stressful is that fact that many of the cast and crew will be seeing it for the first time; I just hope to God they like it. They all worked so hard on the film and it would be so sad to disappoint them.

When I premiered my first film The Motel at Sundance, I had this same knot in my stomach. In fact, I had been so stressed out about it that I ended up passing out at our post-premiere party. That was the first time since high school that I had just simply blacked out and fell flat on my back mid-conversation with someone. They should make medic alert bracelets that say "filmmaker" on the back.

Just moments before passing out and being carried out of the bar in Utah by my actor Sung Kang, I met Teddy Zee for the first time. Little did I know that we would be working together on West 32nd and premiering it at Tribeca and now he'll have to be the one to carry me out.

The big highlight of the past week has been getting to hang with the cast and crew again. We threw our launch party last night and it was as the kids say "off da hook." We had a line down the block and the place was packed till the very end. It was really amazing to see how excited people are about the film.

The only big bummer was that someone stole my messenger bag at the party. It didn't really have much of monetary value in it, but I did have a bunch of personal crap that now is a pain in the ass to replace and overall just kind of annoying. One of the lost items was my festival badge which means it's going to make it tougher for me to get into my own screenings and convince people that I am indeed the director. It sucks because I like to collect those too. It's pretty lame that someone who supposedly came to the party to support the film would walk away with the director's stuff.

Overall, the fun of the party outweighed the annoyance though.

I seem to be attracting trouble this week. The other big annoyance this week was trying to hail a cab after the Tribeca Apple Store party. Coming off the high of watching Gumby bust moves to DJ Jazzy Jeff, a bunch of folks and I were out on Houston trying to get a cab. I hailed one down and started to get in when a woman and her male companion shoved me out of the way and started arguing with me about who saw the cab first. They jumped in the cab and as it took off they gave me and John Cho the international sign language for "chinkie eyes." I am pretty sure they were coming from the same party and that I will see them again at another Tribeca party. If I do, I am going to punch the guy in the face.

This is a terrible segue, but I wanted to bring up something that I have been hearing from folks in the Asian American community regarding my film -- the Virginia Tech tragedy. There is a lot of chatter in the community about fear of the film being banned or censored because of the violence and the emergence of the crazy Korean American kid in Virginia. I have only heard anything like this coming from the Asian American community. None of my non-Asian friends had even thought of there being any connection. I didn't even think of it until a couple people had emailed me to ask me about it. I think that most of the world knows that this kid Seung Hui Cho surpassed race in his actions. To me, he became part of the "crazy" race.

In the days that followed, the reaction to the horrible incident by the Korean community was to apologize for this kid's actions. I felt very mixed about this. I don't recall the African American community feeling the need to apologize for the actions of John Malvo or the Scottish American community offering apologies for Timothy McVeigh. But for some reason, Asian Americans feel responsible for this kid or moreso afraid of backlash against our community. I think the scars of the LA riots run too deep for us and we know how quickly the public can turn on us.

I also realized that the media attention to this nut job Seung Cho touched upon a much deeper nerve in the Korean community. We get very little time in the media spotlight and now we seem to be afraid that this one crazy kid (who in my opinion is more a product of American gun culture than Korean American upbringing) is going to represent us. He single-handedly nullified all the good Sandra Oh, Yunjin Kim, Daniel Dae Kim and Yul Kwon did for us in pop culture.

But it is exactly for this reason, it is more imperative than ever that this film get out there. We need more diversity in pop culture. And one of the inspirations in making the film was to show a real cross-section of Korean / Korean American culture. Beyond the real cinephiles of Korean Wave films, I think it is something Americans have seen very little of.

West 32nd
deals with all kinds of Koreans from the completely assimilated 2nd Generation Korean American lawyer played by John Cho to the new immigrant Korean room salon hostess and everyone in between. The answer to Virginia Tech and Korean media representation in America is to create works like West 32nd that try to show Koreans as truly three-dimensional people -- not fall into a fear that creates ideas of self-censorship.

I hope that the message I can get across in West 32nd is that Koreans are a part of the American fabric. It's what makes America so rich as a culture.

Okay, enough soap boxing. I have to get ready for the festival. Wish me luck. I'll see you on the other side of my blackout!

For more HuffPost coverage of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, go here.

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