Several interweaving stories about an eclectic mix of English speaking Korean expats living in Seoul. Shot with no script and no crew, and starring a cast of 50 characters, GYOPO is an energetic and inventive portrait of people who find themselves immersed in but apart from Korean culture. Director Biography – Samuel Kiehoon Lee
After 12 years in Seoul, Samuel Kiehoon Lee has returned to his hometown of Toronto and is currently attending the York MFA film program. Many of his works have travelled the world and have garnered several awards; most notably his short documentary, “How to Make Kimchi: according to my Kun-umma.” A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre 2011 Director’s Lab, Lee continues to hone his craft through various formats including music videos and experimental works. Gyopo is Lee’s first feature-length film. Director Statement
After spending more than a decade living in Korea, I had a few stories brewing in my brain that were itching to get out. I wanted to explore a multitude of themes: Asian masculinity, Korean alcohol culture, language, adoption, beauty, identity, and so on.
I was surprised to find that once you subtract the racial struggles of being a “visible minority” in a western context, your troubles are supplanted by a whole new set of issues by becoming a “hidden immigrant” within an Asian milieu. Although we may physically look like the locals, we are very much culturally out of place. How disheartening it is to discover that you don’t belong anywhere; or at least feel that way. Ultimately, GYOPO is a piece about yearning to belong.
There was no crew. In 2016, I found myself running around Seoul during the hottest summer recorded in twenty years, with a camera and some actors. I lost a few pounds sweating my ass off, lugging around my gear–I was a one-person crew. Shoot piecemeal, I would grab a location and actor whenever their schedules would align and hope that magic would happen.
There was no script. I crafted the story organically, using a spreadsheet detailing the scenes I would hope to shoot. The spreadsheet changed depending on the availability of the actor and/or location. If a location wouldn’t pan out, I would change the story to take place in a different more accessible space. The film took shape organically, and what emerged was something that was a heck of a puzzle to edit. It took a few years of editing. Life would steer me away from the project at times, but I was always tinkering with it. Honestly, I’m just glad it’s finished.
- Samuel Kiehoon Lee Director
- Samuel Kiehoon Lee Writer
- Samuel Kiehoon Lee Producer
- Laura Perlmutter Producer
- Bobby Choy Key Cast “Bobby”
- Samuel Kiehoon Lee Key Cast “Sam”
- Film Type: Feature
- Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Completion Date: October 31, 2019
- Production Budget: 100,000 USD
- Country of Origin: Canada
- Country of Filming: Korea, Republic of
- Film Language: English, Korean
- Shooting Format: Digital
- Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
- Film Color: Black & White and Color
- First-time Filmmaker: Yes
Screenings / Awards
Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
November 9, 2019