March 25, 2023

AAP Film & Arts Writer

Director Lee Isaac Chung wins the Audience Award: U.S. Dramatic for Minari by Lee Isaac Chung at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Jovelle Tamayo. Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Korean American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung scored double honors at the Awards Ceremony of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Saturday, February 1st.

Chung’s autobiographical feature “Minari” garnered the Grand Jury Prize (U.S. Dramatic) and the Audience Awards in the 10-Day Festival. Based on Chung’s childhood story, the film follows the Yi family’s move to rural Arkansas from California. As head of the family, dad Jacob (Steven Yeun, “Burning”, 2018) decides it would be better for the whole family to start a farm in Arkansas than staying in the west coast.

Told from the youngest son David’s point-of-view, the film depicts what it’s like as a child growing up in an immigrant farming family. Chung narrates the familial interactions and conflicts as the young boy observes, and how the family dynamics is changed when grandmother comes to live with them from Korea.

Chung’s first feature “Munyurangabo” (2007) won the Grand Jury Prize at the AFI Festival and was nominated for the Un Certain Regard Award at Cannes Film Festival. A son of Korean immigrants, Chung grew up in Lincoln, Arkansas, a small town in the Ozark Mountains where his family owned a farm. He attended Yale University majoring in Ecology. In his senior year he decided to change his plan from pursuing medicine to filmmaking.

Director Lee Isaac Chung. Photo by Caydie McCumber, Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

“Minari” is another successful Asian American story on screen. The trend in recent years is kicked off by the 2018 summer blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians”, adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel directed by Jon M. Chu. Last year, Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” captured audience’s hearts with her real-life family experience dealing with the terminal cancer prognosis of her grandmother. The film brings a historic win for Awkwafina, the first actor of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe Best Actress Award for Motion Picture.

“Minari” continues with the trend. The film is distributed by A24 and will be released later this year. A24 is the distributor behind such acclaimed titles as “The Lighthouse”, “The Farewell”, and “Lady Bird”.

Contact Diana Cheng at [email protected] or visit at Twitter @Arti_Ripples or visit her blog Ripple Effects

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