Minari: A Look at Asian-American Film

A24, the film company responsible for popular and well-known productions like “Euphoria,” “Hereditary” and “Lady Bird” released a new movie in February called “Minari.” VALLEY got to watch an exclusive screening of the film as it was released.

“Minari” tells a story of the classic American rural childhood, but a bit different. It follows two Korean immigrants, Monica and Jacob Yi, as they move to a rural area in Arkansas with their two young children. It is set in the ’80s, and their goal is to use their land to grow produce and sell it. The entire plan turns out to be a lot more difficult than they were expecting, causing problems, especially when their Korean grandmother arrives to live with them.

Lee Isaac Chung, the director of the movie, was inspired by his family’s story and his parent’s lives as they navigated being immigrants. Because of this, there’s something comforting and nostalgic about the storytelling. It stays authentic to what it is like to be an Asian American, especially in the Ozarks, where there is a lot less diversity. His talent for cinematography shows through, as he makes rural Arkansas lush forests look dreamy and peaceful. Chung stays true to the 80’s aesthetics with small details of vintage cars and old buildings. It is a charming and funny coming-of-age tale, and it does not take long to fall in love with each character; which explains why it has already won awards from Sundance Film Festival and the Golden Globes.

Photo by Melissa Lukenbaugh, Courtesy of A24.

There is some controversy surrounding Minari’s recent Golden Globe win. Although this is a great accomplishment for all who worked on the film, it was forced to be in the “best foreign-language film” category due to the fact that the main characters speak Korean at home. This is strange because this is a Korean American film, not a foreign film.

The problem is that the rules of the Golden Globes say that only films with 50% or more dialog in English are eligible to compete in the best motion picture categories, and although not all awards use this criterion, it definitely is unfair. Americans all over speak many different languages, and they should be recognized as American culture as well and not foreign. These rules could potentially make filmmakers and producers use more English in their movies, which could ruin the authenticity and culture represented in their stories. Filmmaking should be about showing diversity and creativity.

Although, Chung still celebrated his win within this category, and showed no negative feelings towards anyone within the Golden Globes. He excitedly hugged his 7-year-old daughter on the livestream and thanked everyone he’d been working with. Even if the rules are strange, it is easy to see that Minari deserved the win.


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