For ‘Minari,’ Lee Isaac Chung Returns to the Home He Longed to Leave

For ‘Minari,’ Lee Isaac Chung Returns to the Home He Longed to Leave

For ‘Minari,’ Lee Isaac Chung Returns to the Home He Longed to Leave

For ‘Minari,’ Lee Isaac Chung Returns to the Home He Longed to Leave

Youn, who plays the irascible grandmother, was similarly impressed with Chung. “He’s my second son’s age, so he’s like a son,” she said. “The first day on set is always terrible, but he was very calm. I’m not like him: I get excited, I get emotional, I lose my control sometimes. But not him.”

The film nods at several aspects of Korean-American life rarely seen in contemporary films, such as the fraught nature of Korean churches in the United States (“Our church in Arkansas, it’s so small, and yet it’s still split,” Chung said) and the way many immigrants hold onto a vision of their homeland years after their homeland has moved on (“Inside that trailer is a protected space of 1970s Korea, a Korea of the time that the parents have left. The Korea of their memories, basically”).

On Sunday, “Minari” is up for a Golden Globe for best foreign-language film, a nomination that made it ineligible for either of the ceremony’s two best-picture awards. The classification drew accusations of racism and favoritism — “Inglourious Basterds,” for example, did not meet the 50 percent English language requirement either, and yet was nominated for a best-picture prize — and calls for changes to the rules. (It should be noted that the film’s distributor, A24, submitted “Minari” in the foreign-language category.)

“Maybe the positive side of all of this is that we’ve made a film that challenges some of those existing categories, and adds to the idea that an American film might look and sound very differently from what we’re used to,” Chung said.

Even so, the controversy has put Chung in a tough spot. “It’s hard to say, ‘I demand a seat at a table for best picture,’” he said.

And while the film has secured a raft of other awards and nominations from festivals and critics’ groups, Chung was initially very concerned about two audience members in particular. “Honestly, I was so scared about how I would offend my parents,” he said.


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