Grand Master Y.K. Kim and Joseph Diamond Talk Miami Connection, In New York November 2nd and in Los Angeles November 9th
In 1987, the wildly ambitious Y.K. Kim, black belt master of Tae Kwon Do, set out to destroy cinema screens with a non-stop barrage of action in Miami Connection. Despite it being an amazing ode to motorcycle ninjas, martial arts themed rock bands, and the dangers of the drug trade, the movie landed with a loud thud. It was seen by few, and remembered by even less.
That is, until a member of the Alamo Drafthouse got a hold of a copy, and saw what a beautiful, bizarre thing it actually was. They scooped up the rights, restored the film back to its original glory, and are now set to release it on screens in New York this Friday, November 2nd, and in Los Angeles on November 9th.
The sudden interest in this lost cult shocker, which will leave you delirious and stunned, has brought the spotlight back on Y.K. Kim, who, after the original release of the film back in the late 80s, went bankrupt and saw a lot of hard times. Now an inspirational speaker, this Grand Master has risen once again, and he is experiencing the love for his film that totally bypassed him back in 1987.
To celebrate the film's release in theaters, we caught up with Y.K. Kim, who directed, wrote, and stars in this schlock masterpiece, as well as Joseph Diamand, who co-stars as a member of Dragon Sound and wrote the screenplay. Here is our double-play conversation, which offers some introspection into the life behind this hidden gem of an action thriller.
I saw your quote about genius. I have to know, just how crazy are you?
Y.K. Kim: (Laughs) I am crazy! Seriously. You have to be crazy to be a genius. Being crazy means that you never, ever give up on your hopes and dreams.
What is your reaction to this film getting so much attention here in 2012? It was quite obscure in the 80s, and pretty much disappeared completely thereafter, before this restoration...
Y.K. Kim: The 1980s were really bad. But I was shocked when we showed this movie last night. It is the impossible dream, the reaction the film got last night. I never expected it. Now, I have finally finished it. I don't think there is anything new or different about the film now, than when it was released. Except now, people seem to love Miami Connection.
How did the music come together for this movie? People seem to be obsessed with some of the songs. Especially Friends.
Joseph Diamand: That is a really great question. There are three levels of summation there. One was Angelo Janotti, who was the primary singer. He recorded the song Friends, the title music, and Face the Ninja. He performed those songs on stage. The rest of us in the band were not professional musicians, so we edited and choreographed that. I am not a drummer, but they helped me look like I was drumming. If you go to the Drafthouse website, you can download some of these songs and put them on your phone, or whatever. In looking at the soundtrack itself, all the exciting music, which is quite mind blowing, came from Jon McCallum, who did the special effects as well. Which are in and of themselves, quite brilliant. There was a third musical influence, and that came from Lloyd Sharp. He was part of our family. He was related to the co-producer. And he did the opening song, Tough Guys, and also the closing song. Between that, there are about five songs all together, and it makes for a pretty kick ass soundtrack.
Where did you guys meet, and how did this whole crazy movie first come together?
Joseph Diamand: The collaboration was with our director Woo-sang Park and Grand Master Y.K. Kim. That is a really amazing story. So, would you like to tell him that, Sir?
Y.K. Kim: I went to Korea, and I was on a fairly popular talk show at that time. Woo-sang was the director of that show, and he saw some of the stuff I was doing. He asked me about my schedule. I said right away that I wanted to work with him. So we came up with this movie. But all of my friends said, you are a martial arts expert. You are not a movie actor. Many people didn't think we should do this, and they tried to stop the movie. But my will was too strong. So I went forward. I wanted to do this. But then we got into it, and I realized, they were right! But we were in the middle of shooting. So I extended the fight scenes, and I wanted to get through this. It was my film. I took some time out, and I asked myself, "What should I do?" At the time, my heart said to continue. So we got into editing, and we decided we needed to do all kinds of fast cutting. And that's how we made it work.
And so, then a lull came in your acting career, and you never wanted to return to it?
Joseph Diamand: If this film had of been a blockbuster in 1987, there would have been another on in 1988, right? On many different levels, this brought Grand Master Y.K. Kim to bankruptcy. Emotionally and financially. Over the years, he has refocused his life. And he has really improved the quality of life for America through his Martial Arts. He went into training. If Miami Connection had of been a success, yes, he would have made more movies. But it wasn't. And that made him stronger in doing other things. Maybe he can tell you about those other things.
Y.K. Kim: I lost almost everything except my strength due to this movie. I had to change my life. I could not even think about doing another movie. But I had a good vision. I follow a strong tradition, which is called the martial arts code. I had a plan. And I saw that plan through. Now I want to create an exciting action movie, one a year for five years.
Joseph Diamand: I'm not sure if you understand what he is saying. His plan for the next five years, from today, is to make a martial arts movie on a yearly basis. He is laying the groundwork for that moving into the future.
Does Y.K. feel that it is the positive energy that he puts out there in the world that helped this movie find its way back to an audience?
Y.K. Kim: Yes. That question is great. It is fantastic. I think people derive incredible strength from watching this movie. I think the positivity I have kept is the reason this is coming back around after twenty-five years. I was shocked that it happened. I never expected this. I cried, because I never thought I would see this kind of reaction come from people watching the film.
In terms of doing five movies in five years, is there going to be a sequel to Miami Connection?
Y.K. Kim: Yes. There will be a Miami Connection 2.
And does that mean we are going to see a reunion with Dragon Sound?
Y.K. Kim: Oh, yeah!
Joseph Diamand: Nothing has officially been determined, but I can say unofficially that Dragon Sound has discussed the possibility of going on the road to support this film. In terms of promoting the film, we thought this would be very interesting for people to see. And participate in. We are just in the early stages of discussing how we can continue to get fans excited about the film. And you asked all the right questions, by the way. This is one of the considerations, and we are trying to make this soundtrack available again, because people seem to be interested in it. They like the music as much as the movie.
Joe, what is your reaction to the movie coming back out, and the response to it?
Joseph Diamand: It has been really interesting. I think we were very fortunate that we have these really passionate people who understand film, and really care about film. We didn't have anything like Drafthouse when the movie came out. And they are really coming at this in and of their own. The whole movie industry has changed significantly. We are fortunate that we were discovered by them, and it has turned into quite a fortunate situation. There are so many faucets involved. And they are so passionate. I think there is a convergence of many things happening at the same time that made this opportunity happen. We are so excited to see where it goes from here.