Busan 2019: Director, actresses Cho Min-soo & Cheetah take on “Jazzy Misfits”

 

In “Jazzy Misfits” (초미의 관심사), Sun-deok, a.k.a. Blue, is a jazz singer in the diverse Seoul neighborhood of Itaewon. Her wild child, estranged mother (Cho Min-soo) suddenly crashes into her life again after Blue’s younger sister—who is also estranged from both Blue and Mom—stole all her savings and disappeared. The two end up in a wild caper through a day and night in Itaewon, trying to figure out what happened.

The film features hilarious comic misadventures with a diverse cast that lightly touches on a wide variety of issues (black discrimination in Korea, heartbreaking mother-daughter relationships, queer people in Korea). It treats everyone fairly, and it really should be a blockbuster comedy. Also of note is rapper Cheetah, who plays Blue, who turns out to be an incredible jazz singer and puts on some excellent vocal performances in the film while making amazing stinkfaces in pinstriped suits.

Cheetah, Cho Min-soo and director Nam Yeon-woo appeared at an onstage Q&A session following the Oct. 8 screening of “Jazzy Misfits” at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival. Their remarks were translated through an on-site interpreter.

Cheetah on her first acting role

Cheetah: Because I’m a singer… my goal was to sing again. I started off my music career as a singer. Then I became more famous as a rapper, but this project allowed me to go back to singing. As for acting, I was skeptical myself, because it was my first try. I had my self-doubt, but I had tremendous support from my co-actor [Cho], and from the team, and she helped me a lot. I think, otherwise it couldn’t have been possible.

How close is my character to myself? My mom’s here. When I read the script, she was there, and she said, “The character resembles you very much. I think Sun-deok has a maybe better personality than you do in some ways.” That’s what my mother thought. As for the songs in the movie, as you can see in the lyrics, they talk about prejudice.

Cho Min-soo on her role as Mom

Cho Min-soo: I think she’s definitely a part of me…What I love about my job is that I get to really flaunt or explore that side of me through my character. So, I had fun cursing and being this tough girl.

You saw me running around all the time, and I have a bad knee. If I was in my 20’s, it wouldn’t have been so hard. All that running was quite hard!

On the singing scenes

Nam Yeon-woo: When they sang the [main] singing scene – and all of the other scenes – I didn’t give a very detailed direction to my actors. I just followed and tried to capture the interpretation of the actors. In the club performance scene, the emotion that they expressed and showed on camera, I didn’t know that it could be so tense. And [Eun-young] was crying as she was singing. It’s not something I expected. It just happened. It was all on the actors.

On the diversity of characters shown in the movie

Nam Yeon-woo: For me, the idea of prejudice was very important. We keep seeing different characters that one can have prejudice against. Instead of looking at them as someone that is very different and very different from you, I wanted these characters to all blend in and feel familiar.

Cho Min-soo: For this film, I thought very much about my character. And every time I think about her, it broke my heart. A few years back, there was this “Free Hugs” movement that became really big. But then, years later, the “Me Too” movement swept the country. So, the change in people’s attitudes so dramatically just made me think about our society and how we think of ourselves and others. If it’s not too uncomfortable, please look around and see who’s sitting next to you, who watched this film next to you, this stranger. This film was full of interesting characters.

Cheetah: What happens between the characters – and all the mishaps, misunderstandings, and all of that happening – I thought that it flowed naturally. It’s something that can happen to any of us. To me, that was important, to make it feel natural. I think another point is Mom’s dream. It’s something that I thought about during the process of making this film a lot. My mother was a talented woman who could sing, but she also had to sacrifice her dream to raise me. Hopefully, maybe, the audience will take a moment to think about their mothers and what dreams they had.

“Jazzy Misfits” made its world premiere at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.

Video: 초미의 관심사 (JAZZY MISFITS) Q&A: 조민수 (Cho Min-soo), 치타 (Cheetah), director 남연우 (Nam Yeon-woo) – 2019 Busan International Film Festival (in Korean)
video by Wade-Hahn Chan / Meniscus Magazine