Movies That Should Have Starred Asians: Casablanca

A few months ago in honor of the series finale of the TV show Lost, Offender David and I paid tribute to the characters of Jin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Sun (Yunjin Kim) by imagining them as the leads of some of the most romantic films of the past (see post here). One of my choices was the 1942 classic Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman and I wanted to expand on that idea here.

If you’ve never seen Casablanca (and if you haven’t, I strongly suggest you do so immediately), it’s the story of American ex-pat Rick (Bogart) who runs a bar in the Moroccan city of Casablanca during the height of World War II. Rick’s a loner who doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself. That is until the day when she walks into his gin joint—his former love Ilsa (Bergman)—the woman who broke his heart when she left him without any explanation. She’s arrived with her husband who is an Allied resistance leader and Rick is the only one who can obtain the transit papers they need to escape to America before the Nazis close in on them. Rick is forced to choose between the woman he still loves (and who still loves him) and the greater cause.

The idea I proposed for the “Asian Casablanca” in my previous blog was to keep the World War II setting but move the action to Shanghai, which may have been the most global, cosmopolitan city in Asia during this time. Rick is now a Korean ex-pat running a bar in the city. Ilsa is his former love also from Korea who walks into Rick’s gin joint with her husband—a Korean resistance fighter on the run from the Japanese Imperial Army (Korea was under Japanese colonial rule). They need the transit papers that only Rick can get in order to escape to America to join the Korean American community there working to win freedom for Korea.