I recently had an opportunity to chat with Justin Chon, the actor-turned-filmmaker. Chon previous two films, Gook and Ms. Purple received rave reviews from critics and were some of the most talked-about films to come out of Sundance. Now in 2021, Justin Chon’s latest film, Blue Bayou opens in theaters this weekend. During my brief chat with Justin, we discussed the impact film festivals had on his career and how he managed to cover so many powerful and hard-hitting topics in his latest film, Blue Bayou.
Scott Menzel: Hey Justin!
Justin Chon: Hi, Scott. Very nice to meet you.
Scott Menzel: Nice to meet you as well. Was moved by this film. I’m also a fan of your other two movies, Gook and Ms. Purple. So, I want to start this interview with where your journey began, and that is at a film festival. As a filmmaker, how have film festivals shaped your career?
Justin Chon: I have a career because of film festivals, mainly Sundance. I think that for filmmakers like myself that do it and filming and find funding privately and the size of them, you don’t have quite the support that studio films have. I think film festivals are a place where you could showcase your work and have a platform that you usually wouldn’t have to reach a much wider audience. We’re talking about Gook, and Ms. Purple were micro-budget films, tiny, tiny, tiny budgets. And without the existence of a Sundance, I wouldn’t be here. No one would know that I do make films.
Scott Menzel: Yeah, it’s pretty incredible. I love asking this question because so many filmmakers would not be where they are today if it wasn’t for film festivals. It’s just the truth.
Justin Chon: It’s an absolute truth. I owe my career to Sundance, specifically.
Scott Menzel: There’s so much to digest with this film. I mean, you’ve spoken so much about representation in cinema, yet this movie tackles so many themes that you don’t see explored all that much. You have adoption. You have a family having to deal with immigration. And then, of course, probably the most important, the conversation of what does it mean to be an American if you’re not from here originally? So I would love to know how you could balance all those topics in one film?
Justin Chon: I tended to have a bit of ADD when I make films, and I try to tackle a lot in all of my movies. But some things are kind of in my consciousness at the time, but specifically, this main purpose, the spine of this film, was to shine a light on this issue that’s happening where adoptees are getting deported. And hopefully, if there’s some critical mass of the film, I hope that there’s some change that can happen. It was in service to the adopted communities, specifically the adoptees that were getting deported or facing deportation.
But the other issues are just ways I can get other things that I think are important socially for our country. Because the main thing is, in the specificity, what I attempt to do in specificity in the film is to actually make it more universal and more accessible, and ultimately show how we’re all much more alike than different. So those are huge sort of goals that I have. So there’s a lot of things to talk about.
Scott: I wish I had more time to talk to you, but they’re telling me to wrap. But hey, I appreciate your time. Keep making these films that are starting conversations.
Justin Chon: Thank you so much, Scott.