Miss Communication: Jules Suo talks disconnection in “528 New York”
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by jordan
Our recent acquisition, “528 New York” (2014) is a short film about a disconnected group of individuals living in the bustling metropolis known as the Big Apple. It is an objective, clinical study of how varying ethnic communities – specifically the Korean, African-American, Causasian and Middle-Eastern groups interact – or fail to communicate in modern-day New York City. Stay tuned for digital download availability in the coming months.
I first saw the film at the inaugural Rated SR Film Festival, heralded by intrepid Artistic Director Nora Armani. Directed by filmmaker Jules Suo, who has a background in fashion design, the short film acts as a preview for better things to come. It is the micro version of a feature-length script that is currently in pre-production, and I can’t wait to see where the feature develops.
I was able to ask Miss Suo a few pertinent questions about the content of her film as well as about the nature of distribution possibilities for filmmakers in the Age of Miscommunication.
Your short film “528 New York” deals with the breakdown of communication between wildly different communities in New York City. A Middle Eastern cab driver gets into a fight with a white, middle-class couple; a pair of police offers wrongfully target an African-American youth; a Korean couple move into a new apartment building in Queens but all is not what it appears to be. It’s not easy to write a script like this. How did you handle the dialogue and structure of the film?
528 New York delves into interpersonal disconnection and miscommunication as well as the interrogation of the auditory. The communication with various cultures is not that different, just different languages. I like to write the natural dialogue interaction of New Yorkers. I found my inspiration whenever I’d walk out of my doorstep – people on the streets, subway, stores, parks.
The film reminded me stylistically of one of my favorite auteur filmmakers, Michael Haneke, especially his films Code Unknown and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance – these very dry, chilly pieces that specialize in post-capitalist alienation and disconnect. Can you tell me a little bit about your inspiration for the film?
Haneke is one of my favorite directors. I was also influenced by Hong Sang-Soo’s films, in exploring everyday human relationships especially between Nari and Mr. Cho, the two characters in my short. The story was initially inspired by Mamadou Soumare, an African immigrant cab driver from the Bronx.
Once the film was completed, what was your plan of attack for distribution and outreach?
528 New York was initially made as a trailer to show a potential investor prior to shooting the feature film. I didn’t have the opportunity to show the short because the company had folded and turned into to a commercial editing house. Going forward with the feature I would like to start the distribution process early on especially in foreign distribution markets.
The film has characters from different communities, such as Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Korean, and African-American. Did you connect with any cultural organizations in your process of envisioning the short?
I grew up in a very multicultural society for most of my life. Being an immigrant myself I moved from Korea to California when I was seven. I spent a lot of time going into different neighborhoods in New York City for the past three years and found a deep connection with people in various neighborhoods; Little Egypt in Astoria, Brownsville in Brooklyn, and Flushing, Queens. I write stories that deal with real issues that affects us all.
As a filmmaker I like to represent people, cultures, and philosophies on screen. I recognized the high authority in such a position and began to see not only how issues of racism and gender exist in media, but how power and money can control the fidelity of media products. I recognized the potential media has to rewire our idea of reality. I realized the first stage of fighting oppressive media is breaking it down, and gaining the clarity to see when media spreads destructive ideas. I want to help those that are oppressed learn that with the tools mentioned they can rise up as independent media artists. If our lives are just stories, we can write our own narratives.
That’s a pretty powerful concept – that if our lives are stories, we can write our own narratives. Speaking of empowerment, what has been your experience in the market as a filmmaker? How do you feel current distribution trends and models mirror your needs and expectations as a filmmaker?
Filmmaking is such a collaborative process. I feel that it’s very important to have a relationship with a distributor where it’s a team effort with the filmmaker and not be a separate entity. I personally like the idea of hybrid distribution; splitting rights among distribution partners, while retaining the ability to sell DVDs and downloads directly from my website.
Jules Suo is an Korean-American filmmaker based in New York City. A graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology, she studied Filmmaking at NYU. Her short film 528 New York, recently played at Socially Relevant Film Festival, KAFFNY, and Big Apple FF. She is currently working on her feature-length version of 528 New York, entitled Dosi. – Jordan Mattos
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