Movies and music are integral to each other. When it is the absolute heart and soul of the story, the deep sense of visual entertainment will linger in your mind, your heart, and your ears.
Prior to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Bobby Choy, a.k.a. Big Phony, was an unknown name to this reviewer. The synopsis pretty much intrigued me by the promise of a good story with good music. I just didn’t expect the impact that the movie and its music would have upon me.
Fiction and Other Realities involves a Korean-American (played by Bobby Choy) who is a musician struggling in New York. He takes an opportunity to be a roadie in a band. Once he arrives in Korea and sees how everyone looks just like him, he decides to leave the band and stay. Should it come as no surprise there is a woman who influenced his decision? The movie is loosely based upon Bobby Choy’s own life. Which part is the fiction and which part is the reality is up in the air.
Being a songwriter is already putting oneself in a vulnerable state with each verse and melody. It’s a risk to share the inner thoughts and desires. Sharing your story on the screen is just as vulnerable as now the audience can visually watch it over and over. Being the creator who shares his music and his visual creation has got to force him to scrape up every sliver of courage and strength. Portraying yourself as yourself must be a test in preventing self-imploding anxiety. Bobby Choy still pulled it off with quiet poise and fierce willpower.
When you first meet Bobby Choy in person, you don’t see that. You see a quiet man who is awkward with conversations and stance. However, I was able to speak to him twice: at the red carpet premieres of Searching and of Science Fiction and Other Realities, and my impression of him changed. When he speaks to you, he speak directly to you. With a focused gaze and inviting story, I already wanted to know more and hear more of his music. For armed with a guitar, as his co-star Tom Goble quotes, “Bobby Choy bleeds poetry.”
Bobby Choy’s music will indeed have you swaying gently to powerful poetry. The music easily seeps into that quiet space filled with simmering vulnerabilities and fear and cushions it with his melodies. The beautiful guitar strums will flow into your ears, but it will be words that will make you look within. Beyond making you happy, sad, contemplative, or wanting to reach out to that special someone, his song can answer a question that you have always been afraid to voice or become an amplifier to desire.
In Science Fiction and Other Realities, that desire is to find oneself. Although there is a romantic relationship involved in the movie, the movie is not just about romance. The movie is a great reflection of the inner struggles that those with dual or more cultures deal with in America. Most of us learn to live and embrace our differences so well that it is a complete culture-shock to arrive in your country of origin, where everyone looks like you. You are one face in a sea of similar faces. As Bobby Choy experiences in the movie, looking like everyone is equal parts thrilling and alarming. His portrayal of the tenous grasp of his own home language was strikingly similar to my own experience. At home, with my parents, we would speak the basics, pretty much elementary school level of their language, enough so that our parents would understand what we needed. Once you’re in your home country, you quickly find out how very deeply lacking your skills are. The dialect or accent could be off, unable to connect with the jokes or cultural mannerisms. So even though we look alike, we are still oceans apart.
Bobby Choy has had about a decade of experience releasing beautiful, charming, and artful music videos. Along with co-director Steven Lee, that aesthetic transfers over to the big screen as the movie transitions into what I can only describe as “music video cut scenes.” Even with the delightfully cartoonish squiggles, the music portions are not disruptive to the story’s, but they do suspend the movie audience into a melodic trance as the scenes play out. Choy did mention on the red carpet that the movie soundtrack needs to come out like yesterday! At least there is an official video that has been released (check link below).
The movie has already premiered in California and will soon be making its way to New York and Seoul. If you get a chance, I cannot recommend this movie enough. Not only have I become a new fan of Bobby Choy, but I just added Hongdae (where the movie was mostly filmed) as one of my to-go places in South Korea.