Film Independent

Filmmaker Andrew Ahn took the stage at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday and accepted his award with a call to action.

“Now more than ever it’s so important that we support stories told by and about communities that are marginalized,” Ahn told the audience at the ceremony honoring independent filmmaking.

Ahn was honored for his film Spa Night, which follows a Korean-American teenager as he explores his sexuality after he starts working at a Korean spa in Los Angeles.

The filmmaker told me he grew up going to Korean spas with his father and always associated the experience with his childhood, family, and Korean identity. He decided to make the film after a gay friend mentioned to him that he had a “hot hookup” at a Korean spa.

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“That’s really where the film started: this intersection of my gay and Korean identities at the spa,” Ahn told me in an interview last year before his film premiered at Sundance.

During his acceptance speech, Ahn told the room full of filmmakers that it is important they tell stories “about immigrants, about Muslims, women, people of color, trans, and queer folk.”

“Film is such a powerful tool in humanizing these communities so that we can’t be pushed aside [and] labeled as other, we are part of this great country, and we are undeniable,” Ahn said.

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Ahn was awarded the John Cassavetes Award, a prize that goes to films with budgets under $500,000. Previous winners include director Ava DuVernay's 2012 film Middle Of Nowhere and filmmaker Dee Rees’ 2011 film Pariah.

Spa Night, Ahn said, was able to be made in part because of the several grants he applied for and a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised close to $63,000.

He ended his speech at the awards ceremony by thanking his parents.

“Finally, I have to thank my parents for understanding that their gay Korean-American son is their son,” he said.