Five years ago, when I was just 15-years-old, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
At the time, my interest in film was growing. I knew I’d love to make a career out of it but didn’t think it was possible given that I was from rural Indiana and had no connections. It was a pipe dream I pushed to the side.
Then “Columbus,” a film shot entirely in Columbus, Indiana, and directed by video-essayist Kogonada, was released in August 2017.
The film follows two lost souls who meet by chance in — you guessed it — Columbus. Jin, the son of an architecture scholar, and Casey, a young architecture enthusiast, bond over the city’s modernist landmarks and their own parental problems. But, the film is so much more than a quiet rumination on generational trauma.
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In short, the film changed my life.
Kogonada’s validation of Casey’s passion for architecture validated my passion for film and gave me the push I needed to pursue it. His poetic portrait of the small Indiana town showed that even the seemingly mundane can be incredibly beautiful.
It's astonishing how a quiet, minimalistic film about a place in rural Indiana has touched and connected with people from all over the world. Letterboxd reviews and the social media response to the film shows that. People from all around the world have fallen in love with its charm.
On Sept. 27, for the fifth anniversary of the film’s release, Kogonada and the two leads, John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson, returned to Columbus for a conversation at North Christian Church, one of the locations in the film. When I heard about it, I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t go, even if it was an hour and a half away.
As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I was struck with giddy excitement like a child. In that moment, everything suddenly felt real, and I understood the significance of what was about to happen. After five years of admiring and turning to this film for comfort, I would have the chance to see the people who brought “Columbus” to life in person.
Once inside, the atmosphere was sophisticated yet lively. I began to understand how much this film meant not just to me and the people I’ve seen rave about it online, but to the residents of Columbus too.
Many attendees knew each other and were chatting beforehand. During the conversation, Richardson remembered the Columbus locals who helped her feel welcome when they were filming. She made sure to give a special shoutout to the two men who taught her how to smoke, which her character does in the film.
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While I was anxiously waiting for the conversation to start, I overheard the person next to me mention they had flown from California to be at the event. If that doesn’t showcase how impactful this film has been on people, I don’t know what will.
After the conversation was over, a Q&A began. Typically, I would never participate, but I knew I needed to. I shakily spoke into the microphone and mustered up the courage to ask them how the film had changed their lives in the five years since it was released. If I’m being honest, I was so overwhelmingly excited I don’t remember their responses very well. But, the satisfaction I felt in that full-circle moment is something I will never forget.
This event showed how profound the sense of community and connection are in both the film itself and its legacy. Much like the city it takes place in, the quiet beauty of “Columbus” is sure to leave an impact on anyone who comes across it, whether that’s today or 50 years in the future.