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Happy Cleaners Film

 
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Drycleaners, The Story Behind It

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The dry cleaning business structure serves a dual purpose. First, it is the means by which the Choi family survives, upon arriving on a foreign land. Second, it serves as a symbol of all the various small businesses that immigrant families start upon their arrival to America. Through grit and diligence, these businesses thrive.

When families immigrate to the United States, their instinctual goal is survival. The dry cleaning business, is one that is relatively easy to get into and provides an immediate income for store owners. The money investment is not as much as other type of businesses. This is similar for green grocers, nail salons, as well as beauty supply stores — all types of businesses ubiquitous in the Korean-American community.

It also requires very little technical knowledge for the work to be done. Cleaning and pressing clothes is generally easy to learn.

Maintaining the familial structure is of utmost importance to families that immigrate to the United States. Many of the family’s decision making is highly centered around upholding the core family structure. Thus, the dry cleaning business affords the family the opportunity to operate as a unit. Mother, father, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, generally get involved with the family-run business. In essence, the business structure in and of itself lends well to interdependence among family members.

The dry cleaning business is a nod to our parents. Our first generation parents, work hard and support their children’s dreams and aspirations to the detriment of their own. They resort to menial labor, hoping it was all worth the journey across the waters.

Why Flushing?

Flushing

On Union Street, there are rows and rows of Korean awnings, stacked on top of one another. This is the official Koreatown of this Queens enclave.

The streets represent the trajectories of our parents from their own homeland of Korea to a world that is vastly lost on them. With little in their pockets but an abundance of uncertainties, they have arrived boldly…with mere hopes for the future.

From the gombobbang (Korean pastry bread) we get from our favorite Korean bakery, to the churches that we attended on Sundays, to the mom-and-pop shops that are purveyors of Korean-specic goods — every nook and cranny within this neighborhood, holds the hopes of our parents, the secrets of our youth, and an anecdote that has yet to be uncovered.

Thus, not only does this location serve as a backdrop to the lm, but it is our opportunity to display our multifaceted and colorful hometown. Thus, Flushing comes alive as a character of its own. It is our nod to our humble beginnings and for us to give homage to the world that was instrumental in shaping us as filmmakers.

Koreatown

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Koreatowns exist all across our country. They are nestled in major cities like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Chicago, Baltimore, Dallas, and of course, our beloved New York City. As Korean-Americans, we have called this country our home for over 100 years. However, we have never really felt like true members of the family, but mere guests in someone else’s house. Our stories remain untold. What do you know about us? Who are we? How will others know about us? We are here to unapologetically tell those stories.

We want to provide a snapshot of “that” life, “that” voice, and “that” narrative – “that” which the broader population might not know about. Through this film, we want to be the voice of the Korean-American community, and act as a conduit in telling its story. In doing so, we are memorializing our presence and our importance in this country.

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Film Festival Screenings


Happy Cleaners is finally having its NEW YORK PREMIERE!

A lot of people have been asking about when Happy Cleaners will have its hometown screening and we are thrilled to announce that we will be Asian CineVision #AAIFF42’s closing night presentation! There will be reception following the screening.

WHEN: Saturday, August 3rd, 7pm
WHERE: Asia Society New York

 


 

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FILM SYNOPSIS


 

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Mr. and Mrs. Choi own and operate Happy Cleaners, the family dry cleaning business. Mr. Choi has been working at the cleaners for seventeen years, and was fortunate enough to take over the business. Though they have been doing this menial work for many years, they work diligently to support themselves and their children — of whom they have high hopes and aspirations. The family dry cleaning business – the very source of the family’s income as well as the symbol of all their hopes – is in jeopardy of loss, and the Choi Family members must react. Quickly.

At home, Hyunny is in her scrubs. She works hard at the hospital as a nurse. As the eldest child of the Choi family, she carries a sense of responsibility and thus helps her family out with finances, contributing to the rent and bills. All her mom wishes is that Hyunny reach her full potential, hoping that Hyunny’s life does not mirror her mother’s. A doctor husband would redeem Hyunny’s choice of being “just a nurse.”

Working in the kitchen, concocting some fusion dish, is Hyunny’s younger brother Kevin. He is a young man who always has an unorthodox way of directing his Korean-American trajectory. Like his hunger and penchant for food, his eyes are bigger than his stomach — especially with his quixotic plans. All he has accomplished this year is becoming a huge disappointment to his parents. They want Kevin to, at the very least, stick to one vocation and work hard at that. His mother still continues to dream of having a doctor for a son.

We know the Choi Family personally. They are either our own family, or a family we know about. Mr. and Mrs Choi followed an all too familiar blueprint: immigrate to America, set up their small business, work their bodies to the bone, all so that they can provide and care for themselves and their children. Their children have their own blueprint: study hard, get good grades, succumb to every request of their parents with grateful attitudes and go on to become doctors, lawyers, and engineers.

Much to the chagrin of the Choi parents, Hyunny and Kevin Choi cannot seem to follow this blueprint. It just does not seem to align with either of their lives and choices. They realize that as young adults, they have to figure out a way to make harmony with both the Korean and American cultures. The Choi Family members navigate through a plethora of issues, in this day-in-the-life narrative. We see their interactions with their friends, extended family members, and people in their world. Despite the challenges of this life, one common theme remains: Korean-Americans are survivors.

 

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MEET THE FILMMAKERS


 

Meet the filmmakers image

 

JULIAN KIM, born and bred in New York, is a Korean-American film director and producer who also works as an editor for television and marketing. But what really defines Julian as a filmmaker is through his involvement as a Creative Director at Jebby Productions. In the past, Julian wrote and directed an anthology film, highlighting the beauty and treasured stories that are birthed from his hometown community of Flushing, New York; aptly titled, Flushing Web Series. His quirky compartmentalizing work ethic comes as no surprise to his colleagues as he enjoys long walks inside the Container Store, Muji’s packaging aisle, and building his legos in a very linear manner.

PETER S. LEE, is a film director and producer, whose mission is to always be authentic and to expose the truths. Peter immigrated to the United States at the age of 6, and since then, has been dedicated to telling stories through a unique Korean-American lens. Peter has various narrative shorts and features, documentaries, and a plethora of television and film projects to his credit. As the Managing Director for Jebby Productions he continues to produce unique tales, captured poignantly in Flushing Web Series. In his free time, he always keeps an eye out for an adventure.

KAT KIM, is a film producer, writer, and talent. She is a Flushing, Queens girl from her first breath, to her eventual last, and even through rigor mortis. Her professional training is in law and has been working as an attorney for six years in the securities regulation and finance industry. She has always sought to tap into her creative passion through the platform of the arts and entertainment. She believes that representing a voice for her ethnic and gender community is more effective in her role with Jebby Productions, than sitting at her desk as an attorney. She enjoys comedy, boxing, and not-so-secretly writing up her own biopic sitcom. Her ‘Real Housewives’ tagline would be: “They call me Kat, because I always land on my feet.”

 

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UPDATES


Why Flushing?

Flushing

 

On Union Street, there are rows and rows of Korean awnings, stacked on top of one another. This is the official Koreatown of this Queens enclave.

The streets represent the trajectories of our parents from their own homeland of Korea to a world that is vastly lost on them. With little in their pockets but an abundance of uncertainties, they have arrived boldly…with mere hopes for the future.

From the gombobbang (Korean pastry bread) we get from our favorite Korean bakery, to the churches that we attended on Sundays, to the mom-and-pop shops that are purveyors of Korean-specic goods — every nook and cranny within this neighborhood, holds the hopes of our parents, the secrets of our youth, and an anecdote that has yet to be uncovered.

Thus, not only does this location serve as a backdrop to the film, but it is our opportunity to display our multifaceted and colorful hometown. Thus, Flushing comes alive as a character of its own. It is our nod to our humble beginnings and for us to give homage to the world that was instrumental in shaping us as filmmakers.

Drycleaners, The Story Behind It

screen-shot-2017-06-13-at-8-33-38-pm

 

The dry cleaning business structure serves a dual purpose. First, it is the means by which the Choi family survives, upon arriving on a foreign land. Second, it serves as a symbol of all the various small businesses that immigrant families start upon their arrival to America. Through grit and diligence, these businesses thrive.

When families immigrate to the United States, their instinctual goal is survival. The dry cleaning business, is one that is relatively easy to get into and provides an immediate income for store owners. The money investment is not as much as other type of businesses. This is similar for green grocers, nail salons, as well as beauty supply stores — all types of businesses ubiquitous in the Korean-American community.

It also requires very little technical knowledge for the work to be done. Cleaning and pressing clothes is generally easy to learn.

Maintaining the familial structure is of utmost importance to families that immigrate to the United States. Many of the family’s decision making is highly centered around upholding the core family structure. Thus, the dry cleaning business affords the family the opportunity to operate as a unit. Mother, father, children, aunts, uncles, and grandparents, generally get involved with the family-run business. In essence, the business structure in and of itself lends well to interdependence among family members.

The dry cleaning business is a nod to our parents. Our first generation parents, work hard and support their children’s dreams and aspirations to the detriment of their own. They resort to menial labor, hoping it was all worth the journey across the waters.


DONATE TO THE FILM


 

Donate to help KoreanAmericanStory.org continue capturing authentic stories like Happy Cleaners.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS

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FILMMAKER

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FINANCIAL SUPPORTERS

HJ Lee & Theresa Choh-Lee
Andrea Compton
Jeff Choh
John Kwon
John C Kim & Wendy Margulies
John Limb & Judy Hong
Betty N. Liu
Michael Yi
Carlos Garcia
Don Liu
Michael McDonald
Ohn Choe
Chris Chung
Julie Chi
BJ Sung
Bomsinae Kim
Kyung Yoon
John Yoon