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Justin Chon Explains the Blood Memory Coursing Through ‘Blue Bayou’

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We chat with the director about his new film and how he hopes to change the hearts and minds of those watching.

Focus Features

By Brad Gullickson · Published on September 21st, 2021

Check the Gate is a reoccurring column where we go one-on-one with directors in an effort to uncover the reasoning behind their creative decisions. Why that subject? Why that shot? In this edition, we chat with Justin Chon about cinematic power and how Blue Bayou can change hearts and minds.

Some stories bowl you over. They enter your brain and just sit there, refusing to move, and the longer they stay, the heavier they become. You don’t necessarily want to kick them out, but you can’t let them pace the floor bumping from wall to wall. In the end, you need others to meet these stories. You need to take control of their future and your sanity.

When Justin Chon read about the adoptees who entered this country as children, were raised by white parents, with no memory of their biological point of origin, only to be rounded up and deported by the U.S. government, he was thunderstruck. The devastation he experienced could not exist only in his person. He had to know it deeper. He had to mold it and share it.

Blue Bayou is his scream. Chon is reaching out, gripping his audience by their shoulders, and begging them to look with eyes wide open. Placing himself in front of the camera as well as behind, Chon expelled the story from his person, hoping others would feel its slap as much as he did when he originally encountered this particular American tragedy through the newspaper.

Changing Hearts and Minds

Chon crafted Blue Bayou to confront the tale that plagued his mind, but such confrontation also demanded further human connection. The film is the director extending himself beyond his screen and into the lives of those watching. There’s a conversation in process, and he believes he can crack open the audience’s soul and impact their journey going forward.

“I think hearts and minds can be changed,” says Chon. “That’s my hope in filmmaking. It’s the reason why I do what I do. If there cannot be change, if there’s no hope for change, that’s quite sad and pessimistic for me. I’m not trying to force people to change their minds. I’m just presenting a different viewpoint. I’m trying to create empathy, and I think that’s absolutely possible.”


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