Hyper-Modern Thriller “Searching” Tells Gripping Story Via Gadget Screens
Columbia Pictures’ new acclaimed film SEARCHING tells a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology and devices we use every day to communicate.
At the center of the mystery is beloved, missing daughter Margot (Michelle La), determined father David (John Cho) and sympathetic but no-nonsense Detective Vick (Debra Messing). They are brought together by Margot’s sudden and baffling disappearance. The hunt is abetted by our modern tools of communication – social media, texts, emails, a life played out in photos and video snippets, saved on computer files for safekeeping.
But all is not what it seems. We are what we hide in our mobile devices, which often conceal as much as they reveal. Our virtual identities are subjective constructs at best and David learns more about his daughter than he had ever known with every digital clue. In telling the story, the filmmakers use a screen-based language of storytelling that authentically depicts the way we interact today and explores the reality of a modern parent/child connection in the Internet age.
Our modern modes of communication provide instant ways to present and reinvent ourselves. The virtual world is especially enticing to teenagers pushing boundaries and exploring their identities, while also offering life affirming promise with a lurking menace. SEARCHING investigates the age-old parental dilemma in a brand new cinematic way – how much latitude to give a child, how much independence to afford them, and when to reign them in – made especially harder by social media. The question lies in who are they connecting to and who are they becoming? It is a big-screen thriller told in real time, in a new way that is also super familiar – these are the devices we all use and thus far audiences are embracing to this crowd pleaser. It won the Audience Award at Sundance.
Producer Timur Bekmambetov was experimenting with a new cinematic approach that better illustrated our modern communication paradigms. He calls this concept screen-life and describes it as a new film language. The notion occurred to him in 2012 during a Skype conversation with his producing partner. After the business discussion ended, this colleague forgot to turn off the screen sharing function. Bekmambetov saw him search the Internet, send messages on Facebook, place orders on Amazon, etc. At that moment, he glimpsed into his friend’s inner life, his motivations, his concerns in real time, merely based on what windows were open, the way he moved his cursor, the choices he made and the manner in which he typed. A text message, from the typing to the back spacing to the decision to send or delete revealed a kaleidoscope of emotions and all in a singularly visual way.
“It’s very simple. We spend half of our time now in front of us on our devices and it means our ‘screen life’ is quite important to us and reveals so much about us. Our entire lives play out on our devices – fear, love, friendship, betrayal, our fondest memories, our silliest moments. It seemed to me that there wasn’t a way to tell stories about today’s world and today’s characters without showing our screens. Because multiple dramatic life events play out on our phones and computers. Most importantly we make impactful moral choices today with these instruments. To be able to depict this I think is a way to authentically reflect who we are today, collectively,” producer Bekmambetov concludes.
Searching stars John Cho (Star Trek, Harold & Kumar), Debra Messing (TV’s Will & Grace), Joseph Lee and Michelle La. Searching is directed by Aneesh Chaganty and produced by Timur Bekmambetov, Sev Ohanian, Adam Sidman and Natalie Qasabian. The film is written by Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian, while being executive produced by Maria Zatulovskaya, Ana Liza Muravina, Igor Tsay and co-produced by Congyu E.
Searching is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.