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‘Minari’ wins best foreign-language film, but not without controversy.

‘Minari’ wins best foreign-language film, but not without controversy.

Feb. 28, 2021
By Maya Salam and Robert Ito

“Minari,” Lee Isaac Chung’s semi-autobiographical story about a Korean-American family seeking the American dream in rural Arkansas during the 1980s, was the favorite for the best foreign-language film Golden Globe, and on Sunday night, it secured the trophy.

“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.”

His message was a nod to the controversy surrounding his movie. The film did not meet the Globes’s 50 percent English language requirement — the characters mostly speak Korean — so it was entered under the foreign-language category, even though Chung, 42, is an American director, the movie was filmed in the United States and it was financed by American companies.

And because “Minari” was in the foreign-language film category, it could not contend for the either best-picture awards. (Worth noting, the film’s distributor, A24, submitted “Minari” in the foreign-language category.) The cast of “Minari” was eligible for acting nominations but did not receive any.

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.

“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 recently told The New York Times. “It’s hard to say, ‘I demand a seat at a table for best picture.’”

Maya Salam is a senior staff editor on the Culture desk at The New York Times. She’s a pop culture buff and television junkie. Previously, she was a gender reporter and a breaking news reporter at The Times. 

SOURCE: nytimes.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: The director Lee Isaac Chung, with his daughter, accepting the foreign-language film award for “Minari.”Credit…NBC