It’s 1992 in Los Angeles and Eli and Daniel, two Korean American brothers, struggle to keep their father’s shoe store afloat. They’re the unlikely pals of Kamilla, a sassy, 11-year-old African American girl from the neighborhood, who ditches school to secretly hang out at their store. When Kamilla’s brother Keith discovers that she’s spending time with “those gooks,” he plots revenge on them. Meanwhile, on the day of the announcement of the Rodney King verdict, larger acts of violence loom as the LA riots move closer to their world.
Gook could be an independent film from the early 1990s, but the perspective on and insight into race relations between Korean Americans and African Americans in Los Angeles are more relevant than ever, 25 years after the fact. With humor, heart, and scrappy immediacy, writer/director/lead actor Justin Chon re-centers this moment in history to tell a story about a first generation of Korean Americans amid the chaos and complexity of a multiracial LA, where everybody is looking to survive on their own terms and their own values.