Back for an encore: ‘Columbus’ director, stars will return

“Columbus” director Kogonada, and its two stars, actors John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, will return to Columbus on Monday for a public conversation for the fifth anniversary of the movie’s premiere.

The surprise announcement came as YES Cinema began its anniversary celebration by bringing the movie back to community audiences this week.

The return of Kogonada, Cho and Richardson will be at the former North Christian Church, a building that was featured in the film and is now in the midst of its own transformation from a church to a new use as community leaders, the Columbus Capital Foundation and Landmark Columbus explore possibilities.

A reception is planned at the church from 5 to 5:30 p.m., followed by a conversation with the director and actors, moderated by Holly Warren, assistant director for the arts in Bloomington.

This event is made possible through support from the Columbus Area Visitor Center, and a collaboration grant from the City of Bloomington from Indiana Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Richard McCoy, director of Landmark Columbus, said he has stayed in touch with Kogonada since the movie was filmed in Columbus five years ago, and initial plans had been to bring the director back for Exhibit Columbus’ symposium event later this year.

Due to a conflict, that wasn’t possible, but Kogonada, who has stayed in touch with Cho and Richardson, said they agreed to come back for the fifth anniversary of the movie, setting the date for Monday, McCoy said.

McCoy, who described the idea of having all three back in Columbus five years later as “amazing,” said it’s also a compliment to the city and how the community is remembered for its hospitality and support during the making of the movie.

“I really think they like Columbus,” McCoy said of their willingness to return to the film location from years ago. “This is a bit of a sweetheart place for them.”

The “Columbus” movie debuted Sept. 1, 2017, with a red carpet welcome for Kogonada, Cho and Richardson at YES Cinema, with fans showering the movie with praise as they watched Columbus architectural treasures become symbolic plot points in the film.

The movie ended its record-setting six-week local run with 8,953 tickets sold for viewings at YES Cinema.

The movie focuses on a 19-year-old Columbus resident, played by Haley Lu Richardson, trying to decide whether to leave home and pursue her dreams as she cares for her mother, a recovering addict. She strikes up a friendship with a 29-year-old man, played by John Cho, visiting the city from Korea to be with his seriously ill architect/scholar father who had came to town to deliver an architectural talk.

When the movie opened in her hometown of Tempe/Phoenix, Arizona, Richardson appeared in a question-and-answer session and later posted a message on her Facebook page, encouraging people in her hometown to “to see my favorite film I’ve ever been a part of.”

In an interview following filming, Cho mused that he would like to one day bring his children to Columbus to watch the movie, and then take them to all the filming locations.

Interestingly enough, Cho will be returning to one of his favorite architectural examples — North Christian — when he returns to Columbus for the Monday event.

He mentioned in an earlier interview that he fell in love with Finnish designer Eero Saarinen’s North Christian Church for its seating-in-the-round layout so that fellow believers face one another.

“What’s not really in the film is just how contained all the (celebrated) architecture is,” Cho said. “And the fact that you can walk, for the most part, from place to place, is extraordinary. That’s hard to know from the film — that the town is so architecture-dense.”

He was not shy about letting the community know about his love of Columbus and his welcome to the community.

“It felt like a homecoming as we were going down I-65,” Cho said of his return to the community a year after he and a crew of about 40 people finished shooting the independent film that highlights local Modernist architecture amid a story of two characters struggling with dreams, loss and hope.

“A crew member asked me if I ever have had this kind of relationship with a place I have shot in. And the answer is no. And partially, it’s due to qualities of the town itself.

“And the other part is that you rarely shoot in a place that stands in for itself. You shoot in Vancouver, for instance, but it’s really supposed to be Seattle. You shoot in Shreveport, but it’s supposed to be Massachusetts.”

He embraced his three weeks in Columbus so much that he began popping up on residents’ Facebook and Twitter feeds soon after he arrived — right when his then-latest flick of “Star Trek Beyond” (where he portrayed Sulu) was No. 1 at the box office. He shopped at the downtown Columbus Farmers Market and tweeted about it. He posed for pictures with residents at a variety of restaurants.

“I didn’t know any other way to have a relationship with this town other than to meet it with arms wide open,” said the Los Angeles resident. “I felt like the city here wanted to give me a hug. And I wanted to give it right back.”