Monday, February 8, 2021
Over the weekend, I enjoyed previewing Minari, a classic story of immigrants making a life as new Americans in the rural south, trying to grow a farm to feed Korean immigrants who began moving to the U.S. in larger numbers in the 1980s. The film is produced by A24, directed by Lee Isaac Chung with leading roles played by Steven Yuen, Yeri Han, and Youn Yuh Jung. It premiered at Sundance Film Festival and took home the US grand jury prize and an audience award. It has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its theatrical release is this week, beginning February 12, with more widespread release to follow on March 15. (A trailer for the film appears here. A profile of Steven Yuen appears in this weekend's New York Times Magazine.)
Shortly after the premiere, the film was nominated for the Golden Globes in the foreign language category. The film is narrated in both Korean and English, and the rules state that an American film must contain no more than 50% of its lines in a foreign language. (Other films that have been entered and successful as Best Picture have not adhered to the 50/50% breakdown). By classifying it as a foreign film, however, it is ineligible for best picture. The Globes' classification of the film started a furor among Asian American actors and supporters. Phil Yu said, "Minari is the most/best American movie I saw this year.” Daniel Dae Kim said, "being in the Best Foreign Film category was the “film equivalent of being told to go back to your country when that country is actually America.”
Take a moment to watch the film and judge for yourself whether it resonates as a migration story, an immigrants' story, or a story of America.