“Return to Seoul” filmmaker Davy Chou doesn’t like to give up on his instincts. Casting had proved difficult for the role of Freddie, a young Frenchwoman of Korean origin, thrown into a turmoil of identity on a spontaneous trip to South Korea.
Until, on a friend’s hunch, the Cambodian-French Chou met Paris-based visual artist Park Ji-Min — not an adoptee like Freddie but as a Korean raised in France, attuned to the feeling of cultural duality. Over a three-hour coffee of life experiences, and a subsequent casting test, Chou saw his fierce, flinty character. “It was a raw, emotional force, between vulnerability and anger,” recalls Chou, who sensed an uphill battle, however, in convincing Park to take the role. She’d never acted before and wasn’t terribly keen on doing the movie.
Cue her “until” moment, which involved securing changes to the script’s portrayal of a modern Asian woman. “The day I trusted Davy was the day he accepted to work on his script together,” says Park, who took issue with described clothing choices, behavior with the story’s male characters and lines that to her perpetuated a male view. “There are not many Asian women in European movies, and the few that are, are always sexualized and objectified. Why follow those cliches again?”