The Asian American road trip comedy “Sake-Bomb” will open on Nov. 8 for an exclusive theatrical release at the L.A. Downtown Independent.
“Sake-Bomb” tells the story of a sarcastic and self-deprecating Asian-American who must take his naive Japanese cousin on a road trip along the California coast to find his ex-girlfriend.
Director Junya Sakino recently answered a few questions about the film.
Tell us what motivated you to make Sake-Bomb.
As an immigrant from Japan, I found out a lot of interesting Asian American cultures that don’t exist in Japan. Sake-Bomb is one of them. I never knew what that was until I had seen people at a sushi restaurant enjoying this weird mixed drink. I thought it was pretty disgusting, but at the same time, this could be an interesting subject for a film.
Another thing is when I was in Japan, I didn’t also know anything about Asian Americans. Nothing about their history, culture and their presence in the U.S. Then I got to know them and learned about them. So I thought it’d be cool to tell a story of Asian Americans through the eyes of Asian tourist. They are both Asians but they are very different. This would be a kind of “Asian West meets Asian East” story just like a drink of Sake-Bomb.
The film’s satirical tone is mixed with poignant dramatic moments and colorful, often cheery road trip imagery. Tell us about the film’s cinematography and the way you chose to depict each of the characters in the film.
While developing the story, I knew that it was going to be a drama in the form of road trip buddy comedy. It needed to be a road trip simply because Naoto’s journey is to look for his ex-girlfriend. I also wanted to show the contrast two different characters coming from two different worlds. To set that up, I felt it was appropriate to set up both characters in their home town first before they took off to the journey. The very beginning of Japanese sequence shows a beautiful nature of Japan that represents Naoto’s purity and innocence. But once he gets to L.A, things won’t be the same anymore for him.
Tell us about your experience working with screenwriter Jeff Mizushima’s biting satirical dialogue and characters.
After finishing my first draft, Jeff came on board to re-write the script. It was helpful to infuse his Asian American perspective to the story. Once we started collaborating, the characters became lively. We had a healthy discussion but sometimes disagreed about the direction and such. But that was very needed to develop the story. I guess the whole process became a journey of two of us figuring out how to tell the story just like how the characters experience in the movie.
A lot of people asked us whether the story is autobiographical. I certainly didn’t come to the states to look for my ex-girlfriend. Jeff doesn’t have an angry vlog to express his frustration about Asian stereotypes. But I tell everyone that some of the events in the story were inspired by some true stories.
The relationship between the two cousins becomes the focal point of the story. Tell us about the way you chose to depict the bond that develops between these two young men who grew up in different parts of the world.
Despite their differences, the bottom line is they are family and share in common with lost love. This film is about self-journey as well as connections.
A number of Asian American issues are raised in the film, including Asian Females dating White Men and Asian Men harboring a lot of internalized anger over every little perceived racist behavior by others that is represented in Sebastian’s vlog. Tell us how you were able to broach these topics in a comical way that allows the audience to laugh about it without getting offended.
Jeff and I wanted to satirize a lot of issues about Asians and Asian Americans. We felt satire was the only way to tell such stories otherwise it would have been too preachy and people wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. We made sure that a lot of characters were portrayed as counter-stereotypes: an angry Asian man, an Asian male porn star, a promiscuous woman, etc.
Some argued that why we show these fake characters who aren’t correctly portrayed as real Asian Americans. Then I say why not show these characters who you may not have seen before but what if they are the true nature and you don’t know about them? Why can’t we show a loud and obnoxious Asian or Asian male porn star? You wouldn’t be asking this kind of question to white filmmakers. Luckily people seem to be enjoying the jokes and they also get those subtle messages behind the jokes.