Whistler Film Festival 2011: Lost Lagoon depicts Korean ESL student's experience of Vancouver
Hey kids, writing from up here on the hill at the Whistler Film Festival, amidst the snow and skiers and sun and sniffling noses (the last being mine).
It’s been a hectic but fun few days, and there’s still a little bit more to go.
Just wanted to quickly post something while I have a moment of free time. I’ve caught a few films. I thought I’d start with one that has a prominent locally focus. And one in which—rarity of rarities—Vancouver plays itself.
Director Rob Leickner screened a rough cut of his latest work Lost Lagoon. As cofounder of the Hive recording studio, music reverberates throughout his film work. He previously shot the documentary Let Me Be Fictional, about Vancouver indie band Ladyhawk, and Everything Louder Than Everything Else, his first dramatic feature about a woman running an indie-rock recording studio, which played at last year’s WFF.
In his latest offering, Lost Lagoon, music remains present in the storyline but takes a backseat to a focus on Mi-Ran (Diana Bang), a shy, introverted Korean girl who moves to Vancouver to learn English, explore the indie music scene, and to jog around Stanley Park.
She hooks up with a “cute boy” named Philip she meets at the titular locale. But when her fashion-conscious sister Hye-Ran arrives for a visit, complications ensue.
Leickner said they worked from an outline and scenes were improvised by the actors.
I’ve only seen a small number of films (mostly student work) that have portrayed the experience of ESL students in this city. This one captures a lot of the awkward realities of ESL students, sometimes with humour, sometimes more seriously. We get a chance to see Mi-Ran’s experience of dealing with difficult ESL school administrators, creepy Rice Kings, and Brazilian roommates mocking her in her presence in Portuguese (unbeknownst to her).
While I was glad to see that this side of Vancouverites being acknowledged and portrayed, there was a tendency towards equating all white guys with being creeps and douchebags to Asian women. (Which we all know is fact. Kidding! Kidding! Kidding!) Perhaps this might be the experience of some ESL students, but the film would probably benefit from a more diverse range of Caucasian (and non-Caucasian) lead male characters so that they aren’t all hitting a similar note.
There were also a lot of scenes when Mi-Ran literally becomes a fly on the wall to conversations in English between Canadian men. Again, this might be the experience of many ESL students, but the focus then shifts off Mi-Ran's experience and more on to in-jokes about Canadians.
Diana Bang does a convincing job as the often tongue-tied Mi-Ran, so it would be great to see more of her.
I also longed to see more of my own city being seen through fresh eyes. It’s always great when someone can help you to see everyday, very basic things you take for granted, like shopping or using the bus, in a new, unexpected, and insightful way.
Nonetheless, Leickner does provide compelling cinematographic work.
One particular effective series of shots features Mi-Ran stumbling around emotionally distraught while the fireworks of the Symphony of Fire ignite the night sky in the background—it highlights how utterly disconnected and isolated she is, emotionally and socially, from the rest of the city.
It’ll be interesting to see how much changes with the final cut of the film, and it's a promising start.
Anyhow, I gotta run but I’ll post more when I get another chance.
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.