“All the characters, I tried to come at with empathy and without judgment. … I don’t think any of the characters, particularly Ben, would work if you didn’t get a sense that all of this behavior comes from a place of heartache and loneliness and failure,” Park said. “They’re all so complicated and to be able to show Asian American characters who exist in such complexity was just so thrilling to me.”
Unlike many films tied to the Asian American experience, “Shortcomings” moves away from narratives focused around generational trauma, only briefly touching on the issue through Alice’s storyline. In fact, Park pointed out that not much is known about Ben’s family background. In some ways, the absence of the generational context shifts the onus and freedom to grow squarely on Ben, Park said.
“The power he has in this movie is the ability to change and to grow, and he’s resistant to that throughout the whole movie,” Park said. “Regardless of where these things come from, who made him this way, what experiences shaped him to be this way, he does have the option to mature and grow … and I think by the end, there’s some hope.”
It’s a unique time for such a directorial debut and film release, Park admitted. An ongoing strike by SAG-AFTRA bars actors who are union members from promoting films released by major studios. It also coincides with a time when Asian American projects and actors are gaining momentum in Hollywood, with recent projects like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “Past Lives” earning critical acclaim across the industry.
As actors demand improved terms, including increased baseline compensation and artificial intelligence regulations, Park emphasized that those in the industry can’t afford to wait for better conditions.
“I do strongly feel that this strike has to happen right now, regardless of where we’re at as a community,” he said. “Technology changes so fast. … Without any kind of rules in place, people will lose work. And on top of that, being able to make a living wage as a working actor — it feels very urgent right now.”
Park said he doesn’t fear any possibility of the Asian American movement losing steam.
“However long the strike takes, I think Asian Americans are very motivated and conscious of the time we’re in right now and the opportunity to expand on the stories that we’ve already been telling,” he said. “I feel like we’re gonna keep pushing no matter what, and I think that’s a good thing.”