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‘Blue Bayou’ director Justin Chon responds to accusations he appropriated Korean adoptee Adam Crapser’s story

Justin Chon and Adam Crapser

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    Director, actor and writer Justin Chon is facing accusations from Korean adoptees and an adoptee advocacy group that claim he appropriated Korean adoptee Adam Crapser’s story.

    Crapser’s statement: On Sept. 17, Chon’s film “Blue Bayou” hit theaters across the country after it received a glowing reception from Asian stars who attended its premiere a few days prior. 

    • On Sept. 20, Crapser released a statement on Facebook addressing his disappointment with Chon and accusing him of using his life story without his consent. 

    (To view this entire post, click on the Facebook post to read through the social media platform.)

    • Crapser said Chon initially reached out in 2017 wanting to hear more about his life story, and the adoptee offered to connect Chon with Daniel Dae Kim “who flew to Korea to discuss a film” with him. However, he said he didn’t hear back from Chon or his team until 2020 when a producer asked for permission to use his likeness in the film and to make an “insensitive” request for a photo of Crapser with his adoptive parents.

    • Crapser is a deportee currently going through a 10-year ban from the U.S. He is also a survivor of physical, mental and sexual abuse inflicted by his adoptive parents, who were convicted in 1992 for their mistreatment of him and his adoptive siblings.
    • “I’m a real person. I’m not a Hollywood character made for profit, award-seeking or tear-jerking movies,” he wrote in the Facebook post.

    Boycotting: On Sept. 21, Adoptees for Justice, an advocacy group led by adoptees, released a statement in support of Crapser and calling for a boycott of Chon’s film.

    • The group urged readers to sign a petition, which has 793 signatures as of this writing, and to send a letter to Congress members pushing them to pass the inclusive Adoptee Citizenship Act. It would close the loophole of the Child Citizenship Act of 2000 that abandoned many adult adoptees who weren’t eligible under its protection.
    • Stephanie Drenka, the communications director for Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation, has been one of the more outspoken Korean adoptees supporting the boycott. She told Reappropriate: “Chon could have de-centered himself and cast an adoptee in the leading role. The ‘Blue Bayou’ marketing and public relations team should have used their resources and platform to amplify a call-to-action about supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act, educated the community about issues in transracial adoption or shared messages from actual adoptee activists.”
    • While some Korean adoptees have expressed that they felt seen by the film and support it, Drenka and others said that Chon and “Blue Bayou” were disingenuous for not directing viewers to the proper resources to help with traction for the Adoptee Citizenship Act before its release and promotion.

    Chon’s statement: On Sept. 28, the “Blue Bayou” director released a signed statement from nine adoptees from a new group called “Adoptee Advocacy” supporting the film and its script, and also released his own personal statement addressing the backlash.

    • Adoptee Advocacy claims that the entire Adoptees for Justice board reviewed the script, voted to put their organization’s name behind the film and set Adoptees for Justice Executive Director Kris Larsen as the main representative for the film. They also stated that the issues raised in Adoptees for Justice’s statement were only brought up when the film was in post-production despite both parties using the agreed-upon script.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Justin Chon (@justinchon)

    • Chon has not denied how influential Crapser’s story is, having mentioned it in previous interviews.


    View this post on Instagram


    A post shared by Justin Chon (@justinchon)

    • In an interview about “Blue Bayou,” Chon mentioned to NextShark a few Korean adoptees’ stories that stuck out to him like that of Chrisitan Morales’, Monte Haines’, Phillip Clay’s, and Crapser’s — who Chon referred to as the “poster child” for adoptee stories. All four had histories of being arrested or convicted and all were deported.
    • The director claimed that it’s the amalgamation of these adoptee stories — those who were convicted of crimes in the past and those who were caught through ICE’s loopholes — that he wanted to highlight. He said he consulted with an immigration lawyer and five adoptee consultants, one of which was a woman whom he “had on speed dial 24/7 to run things by.”
    • “I’m not trying to make any sort of blanket statements with this film,” he said. “I’m not telling anyone what to think. I’m trying to bring empathy to this particular man’s life that’s fictional.”

    Featured Image via The Hollywood Reporter (left), TIME (right)

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