Ken Jeong Drama ‘Great Divide’ Tackles Anti-Asian Racism Of Covid Era

EXCLUSIVE: Great Divide, which explores the wave of anti-Asian racism that sprang up in the wake of Covid, has wrapped principal photography on location in Jackson, WY.

The film, about a Korean American family that leaves the Bay Area for the rural expanses of Wyoming in the early days of lockdown, features Emerson Min as Benjamin Lee, a young boy struggling with the trauma of loss during the pandemic. 

Ken Jeong and Jae Suh Park play Isaac and Jenna Lee, Benjamin’s parents, each of whom has a different agendas for their move to Wyoming — Isaac has a new job, Jenna wants to ensure that Benjamin gets into the college of her choice. MeeWha Alana Lee plays Grandma Shim, Jenna’s mother, who has an important lesson to impart to her beloved grandson and a lifetime of memories to share with him before it’s too late. Miya Cech is Ellie Licht, Benjamin’s best friend and maybe more, a Chinese adoptee whose protective parents have shielded her from the darker sides of the world.

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Meanwhile, the less-than-welcoming residents of small-town Wyoming include West Mulholland as Hunter Drake, a young potential classmate of Benjamin’s who begins as a bully but ends up warming to Benjamin and Ellie. Seamus Dever plays Ranger Tom Drake, Hunter’s brutal father, who plots with Wyatt (Marshall Allman) to drive the Lees out of town. And Jamie McShane is George McNather, the last surviving descendant of the town’s founding family, a generous benefactor to “his” people and a deeply suspicious and hostile nemesis to those from the “outside.” 

Great Divide is the feature directorial debut of Emmy-winning commercial and short-film director Jean Shim. The screenplay was written by Jeff Yang, Shim and Martina Nagel; and Shim, Yang, and Brian Yang (Snakehead, Linsanity) are producers, while Sung Kang (Fast 10), former Alibaba Pictures president Wei Zhang, Takashi Cheng (Dealing with Dad), Julia Gouw, Toni Wang and Jeong are executive producers. 

“When I saw anti-Asian hate rise in America, I couldn’t believe it was happening in 2020,” Shim. “I felt ‘enough is enough.’ I had to do something. Anything. So I decided to tell this story. My hope is that our Asian American film can move people’s hearts and ultimately create empathy.”

Said Brian Yang: “When this script was sent to us, Sung and I felt it captured so much of the essence of what many in the Asian American community have grown up with. We knew we had to be a part of it.  If film has the power to spark conversation and shift perspectives, that’s what we hope to do with this. ”

Jeff Yang added: “Writing this screenplay, based on original work by Jean and Martina, has been an incredible experience. I remember having the conversation with Jean where she first shared the idea for this film. We wanted to do something Asians don’t often do: talk about race. And we wanted to do it in a compelling, entertaining fashion, with both serious and comic notes. We’re so glad that we have a brilliant cast who’s capable of doing just that.”

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