Kogonada’s film “After Yang” first premiered at Cannes Festival this past summer, and then at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it earned the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan prize, for outstanding feature film about science or technology.
The anticipated A24 film, “After Yang” made its New York City debut at the Village East Cinema on Monday, February 28th, 2022. Director Kogonada was inspired by the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” by Author Alexander Weinstein. The film depicts the complex relationship between an artificial intelligence robot, Yang, played by Actor Justin H. Min, who babysits Mika, played by Actress Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja. Yang goes through a technical malfunction, and Jake, played by leading Actor Colin Farrell, goes on the desperate pursuit to get the robot fixed for his devastated daughter, Mika. Once the AI’s core was dissected, a huge discovery was made – that the robot holds dear memories of the family, which was unheard of.
Leading Actor Colin Farrell spoke highly of Kogonada’s film and the delicate topics featured in the movie, saying “the themes of life…family, parentage, grief, loss… and he [Kogonada] tells it with lots of love.” Collider Writer Rafael Motamayor’s movie review quote in the film’s trailer states, “it gets to the heart of what it means to be human.” I asked Kogonada, what his personal belief was on what it means to be human, and he responded, “that’s a question that’s worthy to explore all your life. I have no idea right now, but it’s worthy to explore.”
I inquired about what drew leading Actor Justin H Min (Yang) into being an actor in this specific story and he stated, “I read the script on a plane ride, and I started sobbing, and my family asked ‘are you ok,’ and I said ‘yeah, yeah, I’m fine, I’m just reading a great, great story.’ So that’s really what I’m looking for. I want to be moved by it.” I also asked Justin, if he were an AI, what would he liked programmed inside his brain, to which he responded, “I would love to have all of Wikipedia in my brain. It would be great to just have fun facts to be able to spread and help strangers.”
Actress Malea Emma Tjandrawindjaja as Character Mika:
N: What was the most fun part about acting in this movie?
M: I guess the fun part was acting with all these amazing people! Colin, Justin, Jodie, Kogonada…they were all very nice to me. They’re all very successful, and they’re very nice to me, and I guess that’s the best part about working with them – they’re all done-to-earth I love them, and the cast we have.
N: How is it working on being a student while being a young actress?
M: It’s hard sometimes because I’m really tired, and sometimes I have to work really late, because I still have homework left to do, but I think it’s worth it. I think acting is something that I love to do, and school is… I think school is always number one. School is very important, because without school, I wouldn’t be where I am today. So I think even though sometimes it’s hard for me to balance everything, it’s still very worth it for me.
N: American Idol premiered it’s new season this week, and I thought about the fact that although you weren’t old enough to compete, you got a golden ticket. Would you ever go back?
M: I think when I’m old enough, I’d wanna go back. I’ve always loved the show. When I was little I would do like really small competitions…. not for competition, but for fun, and to get the experience. I love singing and acting. I thought for the show, “why not do something that I love.”
Actress Sarita Choudhury as Character Cleo:
N: I would love to know, when choosing a role, what is important for you?
S: First of all, I saw Kogonada’s first film “Columbus,” and I didn’t understand why I loved it so much, so when I got the meeting with him, I had to get the manuscript, and I don’t know if you’ve meet him…he is…he’s got that essence that I want to have. He’s calm, very studied… and I just said yes, based on his first movie. When I read the script…this film is kind of a film for our times, even though we shot it three years ago. It’s really interesting. So maybe it’s good that it’s about the future cause the future’s coming, because it was filmed for later.
N: In regards to AI, how do you feel about that whole world in our near future?
S: How do I feel about it…it’s already here, and it’s integrated so well. I feel like it makes us do the opposite more. I read more books now, because I realized I was addicted to my phone. So I think it pushes tradition more and that’s ok.
N: What was specific in Kogonada’s directing style that influenced you as an actress?
S: Wow that’s a great question! I speak a lot more differently. Kogonada was really good at helping me figure out how to speak more with simplicity, and yet act as if I’m not even speaking. He constantly gives you things to do on certain words, and I can’t explain it… He’s very observant at how to make you natural, but in a natural way, like an actor would.
N: What do you hope that people take away from the movie?
S: That even with loss and grief, which we’re all going through a lot of, I guess connection, like how I’m talking to you right now, and I noticed how beautiful your hair is…like to just get to where you are, because we’re always running to the next thing…and it’s just right here.
N: I saw that the quote in the trailer mentions what it means to be human…getting existentialist right? How would you answer that question?
S: Definitely just more love, and a little bit of humor.
N: If you were an AI, what would you like to have programmed into you as a main characteristic?
S: I would love to eliminate worry from my life. I find it useless. I don’t know why it consumes all of us and it doesn’t really help. I would love to have the ability to function without that worry.