Click here to read The New Camp (pt. 3).
Last week, we chatted with Chris Vargas and Greg Youmans about their radically queer series Falling in Love with Chris and Greg. Today, we talk with Brent Anbe, creator of Ajumma! Are you Krazy???
H.P.: Ajumma! has a queer sensibility about it that is unmistakably camp. What were your influences?
BRENT ANBE: My influences for Ajumma! came directly from my research and surrounding of Hawaii’s Korean drama fanatics including that of my former office co-workers, family members, and true and devoted Korean drama fans. In Hawaii, Korean dramas are extremely popular. The actor Lee Byun Hung in 2005 had come to attend the Hawaii International Film Festival and I went to the screening where I first encountered the proud hardcore Kdrama fans of Hawaii. They were out in force with Tshirts, homemade signs, makeup, lashes, and devotion. As the limo pulled up I seriously saw all these women who could be my mom, aunties, and grandmas loose their cookies and I thought this is a perfect idea for a movie. Think Justin Beiber times 100.
I saw elbowing, shoving, and yelling, which was just pure visual comedy. Ajumma! is a sincere homage to all K-drama fans.
HP: The cast is pitch perfect. How did you find your lead actress?
BA:I found our lead actress through our open casting call for extras. Thea Matsuda (Judy) came to the call hoping just to be an extra. She’s worked with my aunty for the city and county of Honolulu for about 15 years and heard about it through her. So I actually knew her since high school when I would go to my aunty’s office after school since we carpooled. Once she walked in the door she had that natural quirkiness that I knew the character needed. We’ve coined her the “Asian-Kathy Bates”.
She along with the majority of the cast were not trained actors so it was finding that perfect triad chemistry for our three leading women.
HP: Growing up, what comedians, actors, television shows or films made you laugh the hardest?
BA: Growing up I think my family was the source of the comedy in my life but a stand out film and some of my fav. Childhood tv series for me are Goonies, Saved By The Bell, Kids Incorporated, and Just The Ten Of Us. Hahaa the 80s and 90s.
HP: They made a TV show of The Goonies?!?
BA: No Goonies wasn’t ever made into a tv show. But that was the only old school film coupled with the tv shows. I still love films and tv shows with over the top and campy situations… more recently films such as Zoolander and Rat Race.
What makes me laugh now is my mom’s addiction to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
HP: What festivals have you been to and how different have the responses been?
BA: We’ve been to 20+ film festivals ranging from the Puchon Intl Fantastic Film Festival(South Korea), Asian American Film Festivals across the U.S., LGBT Film Festivals as well as local Hawaii Film Festivals.
It is very interesting and unpredicted that different audiences all seem to laugh at different jokes and situations in the film.
Screening at Puchon was our first screening in front of a predominantly Korean audience so it was a little nerve racking in the theater but they actually loved our gay twist.
It’s a nice validation to the cast and film’s abilities to be universally appealing. Going into it we all knew we had a fun and fresh concept but we could have never dreamt of the amount of positive resonance our show seems to have with audiences.
HP: If you had to pick one or two lines of dialogue from your work that you think captures the humor of Ajumma!, what would it/they be?
BA: Hmm I don’t know… You tell me… Curious to know what your pick would be.
HP: My FIRST choice would be “You’re terrible, Judy!” but I think I just like the reference. I also love one of the throwaway lines at the top of one of your shots where you have one of the Eena Girls say “I like sparkles.”
BA: Yeah, I do love the sparkles line also.
HP: What’s next on the horizon?
BA: I just finished up working in the Hawaii casting department for the ABC TV Series Off the Map which filmed its Season 1 in Hawaii. Now that filming has been completed I’m looking to spend more time in writing and delving back into the “ajumma characters” for possible future creative projects in which is too early to say what exactly will be.
While in South Korea there was a lot of hilarious incidents the cast and I found ourselves in which sparked comedic situations I hope to be able to get on paper for further development.
Ajumma! is also continuing on the film festival circuit and will be screening at the Korean American Film Festival in New York.
HP: And as far as seeing it on DVD?
BA: Ajumma! is gonna be on BOYS ON FILM 6: Pacific Rim by Peccadillo Pictures releasing on March 28 for the UK Territory.
I’m also continuing in my participation in this year’s 22nd Annual Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival as the Programming Director. For anyone interested in submitting please check out: