Minari director on ‘sorrow and disappointment' of Golden Globes exclusion

The film was ineligible for the best picture prize because more than half its dialogue was not in English.

Minari director Lee Isaac Chung has spoken of the “sorrow and disappointment” he felt that his American film was only eligible in the foreign language category at the Golden Globes.

The movie, starring The Walking Dead actor Steven Yeun, is about a Korean-American family who buy a farm in rural Arkansas.

It has been critically acclaimed and is nominated for six Oscars and six Baftas.

However, there was controversy when it was excluded from the best picture race and only allowed to compete in one category at the Globes, because more than 50% of the dialogue is in Korean.

When it won the foreign language prize, Chung, who is from Colorado, accepted the award with his young daughter embracing him and said of the film: “It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language — it’s a language of the heart.”

Reflecting on it some weeks later, he told the PA news agency: “I can’t help but contain some of the sorrow and disappointment that many Asian Americans naturally feel in situations like this, especially at a time where we are having a lot of increase in hate crimes and discriminations happening against Asians right now.

“I have a fatigue about that to be honest and I was trying to figure out how to speak into that, and at the same time not to say that ‘Hey, I deserve to be awarded best picture’.

“That is not what I wanted that moment to be about, I just felt like more I wanted to speak into what is my actual hope.”

He added: “Two hours before we went on my daughter told me she wants to sit by me, so I had no idea she was going to do that.

“I was going to share something about my grandma, to be honest, but when she said she’s going to sit by me I thought ‘OK, if I win this thing there is a lot of pressure to say something about all this stuff but I also have my daughter next to me and I want to say something that is really for her as well’.

“That is why I rewrote what I might say and I will be honest, there was a part of me that was kind of hoping something else would win because I was a nervous wreck.

“But just the fact it all came together like that without me predicting it, it’s just another part of this film.

“A lot of things keep happening with this film that are beyond my real control and I feel like I’ve constantly been submitting to this film as something that is bigger than I am, so I am grateful that at that very moment I was able to express something that I feel speaks to an idea that transcends the Golden Globes and that category.

“Really it’s about love and that transcends all those things and I hope we all learn that.”

Yeun’s co-star Alan Kim, who plays his on-screen son, has made history as the youngest Bafta nominee ever and Chung said he was gratified by the warm reception the film has received from the British awards body.

Alan Kim as David (A24)

He said: “I’m so proud, I was so excited to see Alan on this list and watching him the other day you see how much ownership he takes of this role and just what it means to him.

“So I’m just proud of the whole team and we are continually grateful for what has been happening.”

The film is based on Chung’s own childhood in Arkansas, and Yeun said that is why he was so drawn to the script.

He said: “I think when I first read it it was the simplicity of how honest it was and how truthful it felt.

Steven Yeun in Minari (A24)

“I didn’t live Isaac’s life but when I read it I was like ‘Wow, I relate to this so much’.

“He wrote it in a way that felt like it wasn’t aware of itself, Isaac wasn’t aware of himself in the words, it was just what happened.

“And I think to read an account of what just happened is so freeing in that way.

“I think also coming from an Asian American actor’s perspective, that is one of the first scripts that I’ve read about an experience that I can relate to that didn’t explain itself, and it was just confident in its own point of view and that is deeply something that I really wanted to say.”

Minari is available on demand and in virtual cinemas in the UK and Ireland from April 2, in drive-in cinemas from April 12 and cinemas from May 17.

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