“Call Taxi” directed and written by Julian Kim is featured on the X1 Asian American destination this August in the Coming Home collection. We had the chance to ask Julian what inspired his filmmaking journey and how his Korean American heritage influences his work.
Tell us about your film featured on X1 this month!
Julian Kim: “Call Taxi” came to life after several conversations I’ve had with my producer, Peter Lee, about being Korean American sons and reflecting on the dynamics of our respective relationships with our fathers. I remember breaking down in tears during one of them as I shared my pains but also the affection and gratitude towards my father. The film explores the many unknowns of our immigrant parents, especially life after their children leave the nest. Immigrant parents naturally depend on their second generation children for financial support, which causes them to feel trapped, almost enclosed by their parents’ expectations.
How did you get into filmmaking?
JK: Being heavily influenced by manga and cartoons, I wanted to be an animator since I was 7 years old. I enrolled in an art high school to pursue that but quickly ditched the dream once I was given the mundane task of drawing 12 cells for 1 second, butut my passion to tell stories never died. I’ve shot various skit videos for my church’s youth group and fell in love with filmmaking. I switched to media studies during my sophomore year in high school and enrolled in a film production program for college. The rest, as we know, is history!
What are some films and/or filmmakers that have inspired you?
JK: It’s hard to pick because every film inspires me in some way but the ones that had a huge influence on me were 2001: “A Space Odyssey“, “City of God“, “Memento“, and “Children of Men.” I am sort of a sci-fi dork so that genre also opens up endless creativity for me. Mamoru Hosoda, Christopher Nolan, and Ava DuVernay are some of my favorite filmmakers that I admire.
Do you have a favorite Asian American film?
JK: “Spa Night.” I could relate to this film on so many levels, having grown up in a Korean American immigrant household. The storytelling was so beautifully subtle and poetic yet packed a punch and reaches deep into your heart. The relationship David has with his parents along with the journey to find his identity was just so captivating, pure, and real. I loved how Andrew Ahn crafted an authentic Korean American narrative; one that was unapologetic and was able to accurately depict the Korean-American culture.
How does your Asian heritage influence your work?
JK: My Asian heritage observing my dad work the steam machine despite having a college education. My Asian heritage is my mom working graveyard shifts at 7-Eleven. My Asian heritage is TV dinners for lunch after school. My Asian heritage is seeing my Mom come home in three cardigans and a scarf to holding a brand new North Face jacket for me. My Asian heritage is sacrifice and survival. So I think I am moved to spin the camera around to them because they are the reason I am who I am today.
What is your outlook on the state of Asian American cinema?
JK: After watching “Gook,” “Spa Night,” and most recently, “Searching“, I believe the future of Asian American cinema is looking promising and I hope the demand for it keeps rising. However, I hope that fellow Asian Americans can truly find their voice and the stories to tell. What we are fighting for in mainstream media is not solely exposure on screen, but also a deep reflection in the heritage, culture, and foundation which will construct the very narratives and characters in these creations.
What’s next for you?
JK: I just finished directing my first feature-length film titled “Happy Cleaners.” It’s a story about a Korean American family, living and surviving in Flushing, Queens. We observe the day-to-day lives of the Choi Family members as they navigate through their respective struggles, cultural clashes, inner angst, all while trying to keep the family dry cleaning business afloat. It’s definitely an expansion to “Call Taxi” Korean American narrative. We are submitting this film to festivals this year and look forward to screening it very soon!
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