The APAHM Project Day 19: Searching
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Where to watch it: Available to rent or buy on all major platforms
Why it made the list:
In his directorial debut, Indian-American Chaganty presents a thrilling mystery starring John Cho, the first Asian American to lead a thriller film. Part of 2018’s “Asian August,” many people of the Asian American community bought out theaters to give the film a Golden Opening.
When I first saw this movie, I cried. I was also intrigued, captivated, and on edge the entire time, but I cried, which is really odd for a thriller film. Why? Because John Cho is a superb actor who, even through a computer screen, I could feel all his emotions.
This film is extremely modern and clever, using social media, cash apps, texts, and FaceTime to tell its story and uncover what happened to David Kim (Cho)’s daughter, who goes missing. Originally a short film, “Searching” got picked up to be a feature when Aneesh Chaganty and his writing partner pitched it to a company. Chaganty, at the time, was a recent graduate of USC Film School, and was hesitant to make the film into a feature.
I think a lot of the acclaim for this film comes from its great execution and filming methods. But we also can’t sit on the great acting from Cho, Debra Messing, and Michelle La. The casting of Cho in a leading role is huge, coming two years after the #StarringJohnCho movement in which people began Photoshopping Cho’s face onto popular movie posters as the leading male, showing that it isn’t so absurd to see an Asian man in this role. Like so many of the other films we’ve highlighted this month, Cho’s character is not so obviously Asian. Besides how he looks and his name, there would be no other indication of his race. This is a great example of normalizing the casting of Asian actors and having them play well-rounded and interesting characters.
Does it deserve to stay on this list?
Like “The Sixth Sense,” there isn’t much I can say about this film other than it’s really great and I love watching it almost as much as I love John Cho starring in it. It’s incredibly put together, from score and editing and acting and execution. I hope that we continue on this road to cast more Asians in leading roles in Western films.