Liquor Store Dreams took me back to my youth. Growing up, I had Korean friends whose parents owned businesses. They ranged from clothing stores, to restaurants, to even liquor stores. Eventually, my mom was able to open up her own place just like she planned to do when she first came to America. So even though it is not the main purpose, director So Yun Um’s film filled me with a powerful sense of nostalgia. Liquor Store Dreams is a documentary about two Korean American children whose parents own liquor stores. It deals with the generational gap, race relations, and family.
An important part of Liquor Store Dreams is the history between the Korean and Black communities in Los Angeles. It has been a complicated relationship that has not always been a positive one. When Black teenager Latasha Harlins was killed by a Korean convenience store owner, it became a focal point of the L.A. riots in 1992.
Since So Yun Um’s father’s store is located in a Black community in south Los Angeles, she has spent much of her life trying to figure out her place in everything. Her friend Danny Park is another “liquor store baby”. He gave up his dream job working at Nike to help run the store after his father died. He sees the store as a chance to bridge the gap between Koreans and Blacks.
Because Liquor Store Dreams tells such a personal story, it does comes off as lacking substance at times. An argument can be made that the it does not delve deep enough into some of the themes its touches on. That being said, the documentary is a grounded one that looks at how one person is trying to look at the bigger issues. By definition it will be more narrow in scope. And that is the main reason it works so well.
The Tribeca Film Festival takes place from June 8 – June 19. Full lineup, passes, and tickets can be found HERE
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