Staying Hooked: John Cho In Computer-Screen Thriller Searching

The computer-screen thriller SEARCHING stars John Cho whose every move in the film is framed by a web platform: FaceTime, Gmail, Chrome, Facebook, and iChat. “A big challenge for us was how to tell a proper mystery—with red herrings and twists and turns—on top of abiding this very complicated visual format,” director Aneesh Chaganty told us. “We all experience and emote through a device. But what do these different emotions look like when they’re executed on a screen?” Chaganty narrates a two-minute scene from Searching in a The New York Times web video, showing how they mixed live action and animation.

SEARCHING, which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival where it was awarded the Sloan Feature Film Prize, opens in theaters nationwide on August 31. For Rolling Stone, Peter Travers writes that “in an exceptional feature debut, [Chaganty] does the impossible, building a high-voltage, white-knuckle thriller told almost exclusively through smartphones, laptop screens, browser windows and surveillance footage. SEARCHING is a technical marvel with a beating heart at its core.”

Aneesh Chaganty wrote and directed SEARCHING. Sev Ohanian, who met Chaganty when they were both studying at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, co-wrote and produced the film. Timur Bekmambetov, Natalie Qasabian, and Adam Sidman were also producers. John Cho, Debra Messing, and Michelle La star.

For more on the technological themes raised in the film, listen to a discussion that Museum of the Moving Image hosted with Adam Alter (author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked), neuroscientist Heather Berlin, and filmmakers Anneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian.