CAAMFest 2024: Smoking Tigers

CAAMFest 2024: Smoking Tigers

I wasn’t able to see an in person screening of Smoking Tigers at CAAMFest but given the topic, I thought I would be interested in the film and thought I’d watch the screener:

“Hayoung, a Korean American teenager dealing with her parents’ separation, longs to belong somewhere. When her mother enrolls her in a competitive summer school, she begins lying to fit in with her wealthy classmates, including a handsome boy named Joon. Soon Hayoung finds herself in a pressure-cooker of her own creation, hiding her upbringing from her new friends and the growing pains in her family life. As summer fades to fall, she learns what it truly means to grow up. Set in early 2000s Los Angeles, Smoking Tigers made its premiere at Tribeca Film Festival and marks writer-director So Young Shelley Yo’s intimate debut feature.”

I enjoyed the film, but be warned that it is a slow burn. It reminded me of the Asian American film Ms. Purple in terms of pacing, tone, and being set in Angeles). I could identify with Hayoung’s adolosccent angst and I thought actress Ji-young Yoo portraying Hayoung did a terrific job, as well as the rest of the cast – including Abin Andrews who portays the mother, and Jeong Jun-ho who portrays the personable, but unreliable father.

I thought the depiction of Korean Americans over the summer at a “cram” SAT study camp to be interesting and certainly not something I experienced growing up in predominately white Western Massachusetts. Seeing teenage Korean Americans hanging out at house parties also was interesting to see. That was something probably pretty common in Koreatown, Los Angeles in the 2000s. There were a a few scenes in a Korean spa where my only reference is Conan O’Brien and Steve Yuen visiting one in a hilarious piece that went viral on YouTube back in 2015.

Since I wasn’t able to attend the Q&A, I am not sure what kind of distribution this film is getting or if it is still looking for distribution. I couldn’t find anything online either. Based on 7 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, Smoking Tigers is 100% Fresh.



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