Director Kogonada Finds Inspiration in Architecture for Debut Film ‘Columbus’

The film is set Columbus, Indiana, where I.M. Pei and Harry Weese designed iconic buildings.

August 12, 2017 5:00 am

The power of buildings might seem like a strange obsession, but for the Korean-born film director known as Kogonada, he has been fascinated with the topic for years.

“There is something about architectural spaces that I’ve responded to but not in a professional way or an academic way,” the director told NBC News. “It was just something I’ve responded to as a lay person.”

His new film, Columbus, was shot in Columbus, Indiana, which has been revered by architects around the world since the post-World War II era, when, according to the American Institute of Architects, renowned architects like I.M. Pei and Harry Weese designed many of the buildings that still make up the city.

The movie stars John Cho as Jin, who decides to temporarily leave his job in Seoul and go to the Midwest to attend to his gravely-ill father, a renowned architect. While in Columbus, Jin meets Casey (played by Haley Lu Richardson), a 19-year-old girl who loves her hometown’s unique history but is also enduring her own personal struggles.

Kogonada, who has always used an alias professionally, moved to the U.S. as a young child. This is his debut film and was surprised by how difficult it was to find financing for a film that features an Asian lead, he told NBC News. Chris Weitz, a Star Wars: Rogue One screenwriter, was interested and was the one who later suggested Cho for the leading role.

Kogonada said that the film is not meant to be explicitly political, but that the script does have connections to the current political climate. Columbus, Indiana is the hometown of Vice President Mike Pence and the characters in the movie talk about the impact of architecture on the community throughout the film. Kogonada also told NBC News that Pence and the election results added to the conversation “in interesting ways.”

Despite his fascination with architecture, Koganada had not been to Columbus until just a few years ago.

“I knew once I visited that this would be this incredible place to shoot a film for all kinds of reasons, including [exploring] the effect of modernism on a place,” he said..

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