Short Film ‘The Water’ Deals with Fracking, Provides Opportunities for Asian American Actors

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Director Maritte Go quit acting due to the limited, “cardboard cutout” offerings available for Asian Americans. When she applied to become a Fellow with Project Involve, a program promoting diversity in the film industry, Go saw an opportunity to provide substantive, complicated roles for Asian American actors.

“I couldn’t just be Asian American,” Go said of her three years trying to make it in Los Angeles as an actor. “I was getting cast as the geisha, the nail technician, the sexy masseuse. I was highly sexualized and an object of desire rather than a person who had thoughts, feelings, wants and dreams. I was very turned off to the business and what it had to offer.”

Project Involved provided that outlet. For the past eight months, Go and her production team has been working on a short film called The Water–one of six short films to be screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. The film, written by Korean American writer David Harry Yoon, stars Seoul Searching actor Albert Kong as Andy, a small-scale kimchi farmer in Santa Barbara, Calif. whose cabbage crop is dying due to local hydraulic fracking, a process of injecting chemicals into deep rock to extract natural gas. His concern for his crops distracts him from seeing that his wife is also being poisoned by the contaminated groundwater.

Film Independent, a nonprofit arts organization that also produces the annual Spirit Awards, the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Film Independent Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art (LACMA) Film Series, originally began Project Involve as a platform for young women of color in filmmaking. Since then, Project Involve has grown to include filmmakers from any underrepresented community in the industry.

“I see giant opportunities with Project Involve and this film,” Go explained. “I finally get to direct a piece that offers actors a real conflicted life with problems like a failing marriage that everyone experiences. It levels us as human beings and not as geishas or ninjas. I’m so thankful to a program like this that supports this type of thinking.

“We have been developing this story for months, with very in-depth roundtable discussions with the writer and all of the Project Involve Fellows, as well as our fearless leaders at Film Independent,” she added. “David, as a Korean American writer, has a very unique voice that is unmatched by anything I’ve yet to see. His style is haunting, poetic, and lends itself to such a uniqueness that really attracted our team to this project.”

The Water 1

The Water 2Stills from The Water.

Kong added he liked that film doesn’t make an issue of race as the predominant theme. “[Andy] is just a farmer, being affected by fracking and painted by the brush of being a Korean farmer,” he said. “It’s just a universal theme of a man trying to take care of and provide for his family.

“This is great because it shows that this is real life and has nothing to do with race,” Kong continued. “This is a story that anyone can relate to, a struggle that any man can relate to. … We just hope to do it justice.”

The Water is wrapping up its final rounds of edits, but patrons can still support this and Project Involve’s other short films. You can donate any amount of money at the Film Independent website and choose a specific project or the general Short Film fund in the designation drop-down menu.