Korean American animator paints coming out story in ‘Arrival’

The short animated film “Arrival” explores a young boy’s relationship with his faraway mother and how he reveals who he is and whom he loves – namely his boyfriend, with whom he experiences ups and downs – as he tells it to her through mailed Polaroids.

Created by Alex Myung, a gay Korean American filmmaker, the project has entered several film festivals, including the Flickers Rhode Island International Film Fest and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, one of the oldest queer-focused events of its kind in the country.

Instead of telling a story through dialogue, “Arrival” uses lush imagery, expression and movement to show an adoptee who grapples with revealing his true self to his mother, who lives far from his modern, at-times messy world.

The project took three years to finish, during which a Kickstarter raised more than $20,000. The process involved traditional hand-drawn animation, in which about 7,000 scanned drawings were digitally inked and colored.

(“Arrival” Facebook)

“The story was a lot different in the beginning. It had nothing to do with coming out or being gay,” Myung said. “But I realized that I have an easier time writing from personal experiences, and I felt like I understood that kind of character more. It’s also something not a lot of people write about.”

Myung, who was working a day job through the first two years of making the film, said he looks to continue creating animated movies, though they will not as long as the 23-minute running time of “Arrival.”

The inspiration for the final version of the short came from watching those close to him deal with much of what his main character does – fear of rejection.

“Coming out is still something that’s really difficult within the Asian community, and the gay rights movement itself is really young in Asia,” Myung said. “I hope that when people watch this film, it can be a point of discussion for people that are struggling to come out to their families.”