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Friday, October 26, 2012

Prepare Yourselves for Miami Connection

Posted by Erik Henriksen on Fri, Oct 26, 2012 at 3:53 PM

I just ignored every single obligation and responsibility I had today so that I could watch this film in its entirety. I regret nothing. Coming to the Hollywood Theatre, November 23-24:

The Hollywood's Dan Halsted sent out the following story of how Zack Carlson from the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema discovered Miami Connection. I am running it in full, as it is a remarkable tale of adversity and triumph.

The Miami Connection Story

Born in Seoul, Korea, Grandmaster Y.K. Kim describes himself as “a modern philosopher, motivational speaker and world-renowned evangelist of the martial arts.” He moved to America in 1976 with only his black belt and a heart full of hope. The creation of the film began shortly after Kim appeared on a Korean talk show performing a Tae Kwon Do demonstration. Ninja Turf filmmaker Richard Park caught the broadcast and approached Kim about making an internationally distributed movie. The dream was born.

Experienced director Park encouraged Kim to amass a cast and crew of local Tae Kwon Do students rather than filmmaking professionals. Even the primary actors and members of on-screen rock band Dragon Sound were from his circle of friends and followers, and they all invested their blood, sweat, tears and money into the movie.

But fate was apocalyptically unkind to Miami Connection. Kim traveled to Hollywood to play it for every major studio and distributor, each meeting ending with the slam of a door. He took the last of his money and flew to Cannes Film Festival, where he was again told the movie was trash, and he “should just throw it away.”

At the end of the distribution rope, Kim personally managed to book the film in a handful of Orlando area theaters. The morning before the first screening, Florida’s most prominent film critic wrote a lengthy, scathing piece about Miami Connection, calling it “the worst film of the year.” Audiences avoided the showings and the film disappeared from screens quickly.

Over two decades passed...

One afternoon in 2009, Zack Carlson, a curator from Austin, TX’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema stumbled across an eBay listing for a 35mm print of something called “Miami Connection.” The auction was set at the wildly low Buy-It-Now price of $50, its seller desperate to unload the dusty print from his garage. Though there was almost no information about the movie anywhere, the Alamo bought it unseen and added the print to their film archive.

It was soon scheduled to play as part of their weekly Weird Wednesday screening series. The audience was warned that nobody had seen the movie and the evening would very likely be a disaster. But something unexpected happened. With the opening strains of Dragon Sound’s rousing song “Friends,” the entire sold-out crowd instantly fell in love with Y.K. Kim’s lost urban action saga. By the end of the first reel, people were cheering, laughing and clapping along.

Everyone at the Alamo Drafthouse agreed that the movie truly deserved to be experienced by as many people as possible via its distribution arm Drafthouse Films. They took on the challenge, reaching out to Master Kim’s school, still operating out of Orlando. At first, Kim and his representatives assumed that the calls were a cruel hoax, a mockery of the wasted efforts they’d tried to forget long ago. But after countless phone calls and emails, Kim began to wonder if this alleged appreciation of the film was genuine, and he cautiously agreed to let his single theatrical work see light again.

A few months later, Drafthouse Films booked a highly publicized Miami Connection screening as part of the 2012 New York Asian Film Festival. Kim arrived warily, certain of another disappointment. Just minutes before showtime, the nearly empty auditorium was suddenly invaded by people. As the lights went down and the movie began, Kim was astonished: “From beginning to end, the audience cheered and laughed. I was shocked when I saw them going crazy with a never-ending torrent of applause, laughter and screams throughout the entire movie. Even after the movie finished and the lights came on, nobody wanted to leave. They seemed to want to make the good feeling last. I have never seen a movie audience react like this in my life.” Finally, after hiding from his film for half a lifetime, Y.K. Kim finally realizes the truly infectious power and joy it holds. His apprehension has vanished, replaced with enthusiasm for Miami Connection’s upcoming re-release. “It is like a miracle. I feel like I am watching a dead body walking. At the premiere in New York, I couldn’t believe it! I thought I was dreaming, so I pinched my arm...but it was not a dream. It was real!”

This concludes my blog post about Miami Connection. I will now be rewatching Miami Connection. Good day.

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