Home to the largest Korean community across Europe, New Malden is also a very suburban area which is why Zak decides to target its elderly residents. Before Sun-Mi, Zak cons a number of people, some of whom are Sun-Mi’s friends, which he later sheepishly recognises from his tree prison. In the tree, Zak is plagued by his fear of heights and his own conscience, treating Yesu as his personal therapist. The police question Sun-Mi about his car outside. Zak panics, falls, knocks himself unconscious only to awake, bandaged on her sofa and realise, the police were far from observant and his captor hasn’t given him up. First angry, then overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger, Zak like Zacchaeus, gives back what he stole and more to his victims. Warmly welcomed into Sun-Mi’s community for dinner, he switches his suit for vibrant clothes. The story goes full circle as the doorbell goes and in reverse to the first scene, Zak opens it to a sweet talking salesman. Playful cinematography will be key in telling this tale, with scale and frame conveying Zak’s gradual change in perspective: from his isolation in the tree, to his closeness, redemption and acceptance within the community.
Adapting the story of Zacchaeus into a farcical comedy, I’ve traded Zacchaeus for Zak, a conman posing as the taxman; people of Jericho for residents of New Malden and Jesus for a badass Korean grandma... or is her spiritual white cat Yesu? Just like Zacchaeus, our main protagonist Zak is short, greedy and unrepentant and the victims of his scam and police of New Malden see no path to redemption for him, only punishment. To parallel the bible verse, Zak too climbs a sycamore tree to see Jesus but this time, it's a spontaneous feline rescue mission fuelled by a desire for money. Although Zak resents her to begin with after being trapped in the tree, our heroine Sun-Mi unwittingly becomes his salvation when showing him forgiveness despite all his past transgressions. In both stories, we learn that once a sinner does not mean, always a sinner and that there is more to life than just possessions. To mirror Zacchaeus’ transformation, our story ends with Zak’s acceptance into the Ajumma circle and a colourful change in his personality and appearance, fortified by a surprise encounter with a salesman at his door, signifying the departure of his old self.