Greg Pak: Fighting Grandpa

A Student Academy Award winning short documentary directed by Greg Pak

1998, 21 minutes, color. A young filmmaker talks with three generations of his extended family as he searches for evidence of love between his immigrant Korean grandparents.

Combining original verite and interview material with Super 8 home movies, old family photos, and historical footage, “Fighting Grandpa” tells the story of a Korean American grandmother’s seventy year struggle with her husband. Forced to give up her dreams of becoming a nurse, left with four children for ten years alone in Korea while her husband studied in America, and finally brought to Hawaii to endure new hardships, Grandma might have every right to be bitter. But as the filmmaker discovers, questions of love have no simple answers.

By delving into the suppressed conflicts and contradictions at the heart of many immigrant family histories, “Fighting Grandpa” allows a glimpse of how a previous generation, bound by tradition and culture, built a complex, ambiguous love that their grandchildren can only barely comprehend.

Director, Writer, Editor, Cinematographer, Producer: Greg Pak
Location Sound: Keiko Ibi, Hiroki Naoyoshi, Laurie Wen
Music: Rick Knutsen
Super 8 Footage: Jane Pak
Post Sound Mixer: Abayomi Jinadu
Optical Printing: Greg Pak & Greg Woodbury
Fiscal Sponsorship: New York Foundation for the Arts

Geeks of Doom posts massive interview with Greg Pak has posted a big interview with comic book writer and filmmaker Greg Pak about everything from Texas politics to “Robot Stories” to Asian American themes to Skaar, Son of Hulk! Here’s an excerpt:

GoD: Your early film work seems to have focused on Asian American themes, such as Fighting Grandpa and Asian Pride Porn. Without necessarily connecting the two (which would seem, on the surface, awkward), you obviously have a deep influence from your heritage. Tell us a little about your early film work and where you drew your inspiration.

GP: I’m half Korean and half white. These days, people usually think I’m the same ethnicity as whomever I’m standing next to — Latino or Arab or Jewish or Native American or Dutch or whatever — I’ve heard it all. But I’ve always identified strongly as Asian American. When I was a kid I looked pretty much straight up Asian and got my share of racist taunts. But my parents taught me to be proud of my heritage and the Boy Scouts taught me that America was all about liberty and justice for all. The upshot is that I think a big motivating factor for me in becoming a storyteller was this desire to break down the barriers that separate people, to do my little bit to humanize different kinds of people.

“Fighting Grandpa” was my thesis film at NYU — it’s a documentary that asks whether my Korean grandparents ever really loved each other. It’s an incredibly specific story, rooted in one Korean American family’s unique quirks and history. But after screenings, people of all different backgrounds would come up to me and say that that was the story of their grandparents. That meant a great deal to me on a personal level, of course. But it also made me happy because it meant that folks of all different backgrounds had bonded with these Asian American people on the screen in a way that they might never have before. And in a world in which Asians are still horribly stereotyped and ridiculed in the most repellently racist ways in all kinds of media, that felt like a good thing.

In a kind of crazy way, those same impulses have probably helped me write the Hulk. On one level, “Planet Hulk” is about how what we think we know about a person can be completely wrong. Everyone knows the Hulk and his Warbound companions are monsters. But by the end of the story, we realize they may just be heroes. People are always deeper and usually better than the stereotypes would have us believe.

Click here to read the whole thing.

“Fighting Grandpa” awards & nominations

1999 Gold Apple Winner
National Educational Media Network

1999 First Place, Short Documentary
Film Fest New Haven

1998 Gold Winner, Documentary Category
Student Academy Awards

1998 Graduate Student Film Grant Winner
Hamptons International Film Festival

1998 First Place Winner
Korean American Film Festival

1998 Best Film
Heart of America Awards, American Legion Auxiliary

1998 First Place Winner, Documentary Category
Marin County Film Festival

1998 Nominee
IDA/David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award

1998 Finalist
Hope & Dreams Film Festival

1998 Finalist
IFC2000 National Student Film Competition

1998 Certificate of Merit
Long Island Film Festival

1998 Honorable Mention, Short Documentary
Reel Frontier Arizona International Film Festival

1998 Finalist, Student Category
Philadelphia International Film Festival

1998 Honorable Mention
Brooklyn Film Festival

1998 Third Place Graduate Wasserman Award Winner,
Achievement in Documentary Craft Award,
Directing, Editing, and Original Score Craft Awards
First Run Film Festival Awards, New York University

1997 Warner Bros. Post Production Award

“Fighting Grandpa” festivals and screenings

2002 Asian Film Festival of Dallas
2002 Konundrum Screening Series, NYC
2002 FilmFest New Haven “A Taste of FFNH”
2000 DocSide Film Festival, San Antonio, TX
2000 Vancouver Asian Film Festival
2000 DC APA Film Festival, Washington, DC
2000 San Diego Asian Film Festival
2000 Asian American Film Festival, Rice University, Houston
2000 Ocularis, Brooklyn
1999 Shinyuri Film Festival
1999 British Short Film Festival
1999 Valladolid International Film Festival, Spain
1999 St. Petersburg Message to Man International Film Festival, Russia
1999 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film & Video Festival
1999 Athens International Film Festival, Athens, OH
1999 National Educational Media Network Film Festival
1999 PS 99 Film Festival, New York, NY
1999 Cinequest San Jose Film Festival
1999 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
1999 Film Fest New Haven, New Haven, CT
1999 Chicago Asian American Showcase
1999 Asian American Film Festival, University of Wisconsin – Madison
1999 Asian American Film Festival, Dartmouth University
1999 Korean Cultural Night, School of Visual Arts, NYC
1998 Hamptons International Film Festival
1998 HBO Frame by Frame Documentary Film Festival, New York, NY
1998 Telluride Film Festival
1998 Montclair Short Film & Video Festival, Montclair, NJ
1998 Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival
1998 Evenstill, Films from the Korean Disapora, Minneapolis, MN
1998 Detroit International Film Festival
1998 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, DE
1998 Louisville Film & Video Festival
1998 Fort Worth Film Festival
1998 Korean American Film Festival, New York, NY
1998 Colony Club Film Evening, NYC
1998 Mill Valley Film Festival
1998 Hope & Dreams Film Festival, Hope, NJ
1998 Brooklyn Film Festival
1998 1 Reel Film Festival at Bumbershoot, the Seattle Arts Festival
1998 Chilivisions, Visual Communications Fundraiser, Los Angeles
1998 Films in the Forest, Carmel, CA
1998 Summer Shorts Film Festival, East Hampton, NY
1998 PhilaFilm, Philadelphia International Film Festival
1998 Asian American International Film Festival, New York, NY
1998 Huntington International Film Festival, Huntington, NY
1998 Sochi International Film Festival, Sochi, Russia
1998 Marin County Film Festival, San Rafael, CA
1998 Saguaro Film Festival, Scottsboro, AZ
1998 The Reel Frontier Arizona International Film Festival, Tucson, AZ
1998 DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival, Durham, NC
1998 First Run Film Festival, New York University