Sundance gives audiences a comedic and poignant ‘Raspberry’
Filmmaker Doan relied on his cast to convey emotions
Filmmaker Julian Doan faced a strange challenge while making his short film “Raspberry.”
“How do you make a film about a banal, boring and unembellished death interesting in seven minutes?” Doan said. “This was something I wanted to capture. I wanted someone to experience the gravity of the situation.”
“Raspberry,” which is available for on-demand screening starting Friday, Jan. 28, during the Sundance Film Festival, is about an Asian family that has to say goodbye to their dead father as the undertakers prepare to take his body to the mortuary.
To overcome the challenge, Doan relied on his cast that includes Raymond Lee, Alexis Rhee, Joseph Lee and Gihee Hong, who play the grieving family members, and Molly Leland and Matt Kelly, who portray the undertakers.
Because the film was prepped in three weeks and shot in one day, Doan spent a lot of time talking with Joseph Lee, Rhee and Hong, who play the older brother, sister and mother, respectively.
“I needed to have actors I needed to be vulnerable with, because the film is based on a true story,” Doan said. “My dad passed away in 2018, and I was in the room while we watched him take his last breath. So I needed to let my cast know what I went through and what I was thinking.”
Doan also needed to find some commonality with the actors in terms of how they saw the comedy and futility of finding the right way to say goodbye, he said.
“In the film, they all emote so openly in a healthy fashion, but Ray, who plays the main character, needed to intrigue and bring the audience in,” he said.
Doan felt the role of the little brother would challenge the actor, who, he said, is good at comedy.
“Ray is very good at being big and over the top, so I was really interested to try something a little more restrained with him,” Doan said. “I also felt he had this internal seething quality that he could bring out well.”
The actors found more depth within their characters after they took a deep dive into the script.
“Ray said the story was really poignant and beautiful, and others who read it told me the same thing,” Doan said. “So we leaned into the combination of comedy and drama.”
Adding Leland and Kelly created a new dynamic to the film, according to Doan.
“When the undertakers start to take the body away, the family realizes this is the last chance to say something,” he said. “And I, personally, don’t feel like you can come up with anything good no matter what you say in that situation. So it was a little bit of exploring that.”
Doan has known Leland since college, and he has worked with Kelly on “Everyone I Love Is Dead,” a digital zombie comedy series.
“Molly’s approach to roles is to play things very grounded, which makes things funny for me, and Matt is a great actor in general who is also good at comedy,” Doan said. “So I thought they would be a great fit for these characters who are just trying to do their job and interact with these people in a weird space of this weird event and be witnesses to culture.”
Doan said he was surprised “Raspberry” was accepted into this year’s film festival.
“Sundance is one of those dream things for me as a filmmaker, so it’s still a little unreal for me,” he said.
“Raspberry,” a short film in the Sundance Film Festival will begin virtual on-demand screenings for all festival account holders at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 28.
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The nonprofit Bridge21 secured two plots this summer for its Buds & Bloom program, an opportunity for adults with mental disabilities to grow vegetables and flowers and to further establish relationships in the broader community.