“My concern was, would anyone finance this film if it is not in English? … I was in a position in which nobody knows who I am. Nobody knows what this story is,” he said.
“You know, it’s about a bunch of farmers who are chicken sexers. It doesn’t jump off the page as being a commercial endeavor.”
So Chung also wrote a version of the script with more English in it, just in case.
Luckily, Chung says, producer Christina Oh, who’s also Korean American, supported his vision.
“She was very adamant from the start that we have to do this in Korean, the way that we grew up. … She said as a producer, she’s going to go out and make that case, and make that fight. And I just trusted her,” he said.
Having the family at the heart of the story speak Korean at home added nuance and complexity to movie, he said.
“That adds, I feel, a layer of what this family’s actually going through and that sort of insular feeling that you have when the reality at home is different from the one outside,” he said, “and that you really try to preserve some of that reality within your own family as you feel it slipping away.”
Why the Golden Globes nomination sparked controversy
In recent months, controversy erupted over the Golden Globes’ rules, which made “Minari” eligible for best foreign-language film but not best picture because more than 50% of the movie is not in English.
That’s raised serious questions about racism in Hollywood and calls for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to reexamine its language requirements.
“It feels personal. … It feels like the ‘where are you from?’ question that Asian Americans always get,” says Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and author of “Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism” told CNN. “The assumption is that if you have an Asian face, you must not be from here.”
“More than 350 languages are spoken in American homes today. So what does ‘foreign’ language mean?” said Charlene Jimenez, director of entertainment partnerships and advocacy for the nonprofit Define American.
“It’s a really important time for us as an American society to be investigating our own prejudice about films like this, about stories like this, about immigrant stories — what does and does not resonate as ‘American’ to people.”
Minari’s director says language in ‘Minari’ goes beyond any ‘American’ or ‘foreign’ label
Chung thanked the association for the honor in his acceptance speech Sunday night while also alluding to the broader conversation.
“i just want to say that ‘Minari’ is about a family,” Chung said, accepting the award with his daughter’s arms around his neck. “It’s a family trying to learn how to…