Writer, director, and actor Justin Chon's latest project -- Blue Bayou -- is exactly the kind of film we need right now.
Teaming up with Alicia Vikander, the Oscar-winning actress and star of 2015's historical trans drama The Danish Girl, the film tells the heartbreaking but important story of Antonio LeBlanc, a Korean-American adoptee who has lived basically his whole life in Louisiana but is now facing deportation after it's revealed that his adoptive parents never underwent the legal process to make him a naturalized citizen.
While all sorts of optimistic, idealized Asian-American stories are becoming more and more prevalent in the Western media landscape, it's still important to highlight the kinds of authentic, real stories and struggles folks like Antonio face every day in America, and Blue Bayou does a good job of shedding light on that for audiences.
Out had the chance to sit down virtually with Justin Chon and Alicia Vikander to talk about the crafting of the film and bringing narratives to the forefront we don't see often on the big screen.
"If we're talking about representation, part of the Asian American experience is the adoptee experience," Chon told Out about highlighting Asian-American stories that don't get told enough in media. "My goal is to bring empathy to our community as a whole. And adoptees are part of that. I'm not an adoptee. It's not my story, but they are part of the community. And I wanna tell all of our stories and I wanna make sure that that all of us are represented and I wanna use my platform to do that."
Taking place in and around New Orleans, the film is also inclusive of the region's sizeable Vietnamese population through the character Parker (played by Linh Dan Pham), a woman who befriends Antonio during the final stages of her battle with cancer.
"It was a very conscious choice on his part to have that kind of character in the script," Pham said about working and collaborating with Chon to bring Vietnamese-American representation in the American South to Blue Bayou. "Louisiana is where there's a very strong Vietnamese community and he actually knows people who come from there. He writes from what he knows basically."
"That's the beauty with books, filmmaking, art in general," Vikander said to Out when asked about being part of important projects like Blue Bayou. "You get introduced to stories or new aspects of people's lives that you hadn't seen before. And that comes with the people that I got to meet on a very personal level. That's the fun thing about making films. I get to kind of go to places and get introduced to cultures and have relationships that I wouldn't have had otherwise. So it's always quite meaningful. And this one particularly."
Blue Bayou hits theaters on September 17.
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