"What is meaningful to me is seeing the image of a whole, loving Asian-American family [more] than anything else"
John Cho has said that he hopes seeing Asian American families on screen to be normal in the future, just like his new film Searching.
In the film, Cho plays young father David Kim who searches for his missing daughter. Kim enlists the help of a detective played by Debra Messing, but realises he is ultimately left to his own devices. The film is told entirely through computer and smartphone screens, in a similar fashion to 2014’s Unfriended.
Speaking at the 41st annual Asian American International Film Festival, where Searching was screened, Cho said, “I accept that it’s a big deal. I’m excited.”
“I haven’t thought of that, but what is meaningful to me is seeing the image of a whole, loving Asian-American family [more] than anything else,” he continued. “It’s very rare in movies. The image of that is much more startling than it should be. It was surprising to me how powerful it was. I want the future to be where it’s completely normal to see an Asian-American family on-screen.”
Indian filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty, who wrote and directed the film, said that casting Asian Americans actors normally requires justification, but Searching does not.
“For so long, identity has to be justified in a narrative. You always have to explain why, especially when you’re casting anybody who isn’t white in a movie,” said Chaganty. “There has to be this element explaining what the Asian-American hook is. In our movie, there’s no justifying it. We are trying to not make it an issue. That’s the victory to us.”
“When we got the opportunity to tell a movie, we figured, why not take this opportunity and do something that we always wanted to do, to see various versions of ourselves on-screen, since it never happens?”
Cho also discussed the #StarringJohnCho that advocated for Asian American actors to be cast in leading roles.
“I think it started a discussion in a positive way,”said Cho. “The visual of seeing an Asian-American face on a poster said a lot in a moment. It was simple and impactful. We are taking the same idea and showing an Asian-American family as a simple thing. It says more in that moment than an entire Asian-American studies class could.”
Searching will be released on 24 August.