By: Samantha Galvez-Montiel
Minari is about the many families that come from elsewhere to start a new life in America but the dream isn’t as easy as it seems.
The American dream has always been depicted as the white picket fence and happiness for working as hard as the next person. The American-produced film with an American director has received a lot of controversy for being in the foreign-language film category at the Golden Globes, which they won for best foreign-language film.
The director, Lee Isaac Chung, created this semi-autobiographical story about a Korean-American family, the Yi family, seeking the American dream in rural Arkansas during the 1980s. “This one here, she’s the reason I made this film,” Chung said in his acceptance speech, while tightly hugging his young daughter. “Minari is about a family. It’s a family trying to learn how to speak a language of its own,” he said. “It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language; it’s a language of the heart.”
The movie is set in the United States and the Golden Globes 50 percent English language requirement was not met for the movie to be seen as an American film. The bigger picture is that the struggles of immigrants, socially and economically, are ignored just like the way the Globes ignored the real story of the movie.
The NY Times wrote, “The classification drew accusations of racism and favoritism — Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009), for example, did not meet the English language requirement either, and yet was nominated for a best-picture prize — and calls for changes to the rules.”
The parents Jacob and Monica, who are played by Steven Yeun and Han Ye-ri, talk about how they move from state to state never really finding a place to call home for their kids, David and Anne. The kids meet their grandma from Korea and them being raised in American had the idea of an American grandma in their head– an old woman who bakes cookies and doesn’t curse. David is played by Alan S. Kim and Anne played by Noel Cho.
“The film is semi-autobiographical, inspired by Chung’s experiences growing up on a farm in Arkansas, the son of South Korean immigrants,” Refinery 29 wrote. “And while it isn’t ‘based on real events,’ the people who inspired the family at the center of Minari are very much real. Chung’s parents still do, in fact, own a farm in Arkansas.”
As a daughter of two immigrants, the struggle depicted in the movies sits with my parents. The curiosity of a new culture in a white neighborhood sits with me as I have been asked, “Are you good at math?” or like in the movie, a little white girl asked Anne, “Tell me if I say something in your language” and then continued to say gibberish which she thought resembled some Asian language.
The movie is called a semi-biography for a reason because it’s a story that still rings true today and for many Asian immigrants as well as Asian-Americans. That even if you are born here, you’re still treated as a museum exhibit to be questioned and torn apart.
The truth is that no matter where you are from if you’re not white in American, then you are not a “real American” and that is why this snub from the Globes doesn’t sit right. That even though a movie that is American made and produced, like children of immigrants in America, it is still deemed foreign.
The movie is streaming at the Angelika Film Center in Manhattan and is available to rent on Amazon Prime.