During awards season, there are multiple opportunities for filmmakers and journalists to engage in cinematic dialogue. Cast and crew from award’s caliber films are eager to engage in conversation about their films. During the pandemic, many film junkets have transitioned to a virtual model allowing more journalists from around the world to connect with these film artists. Over the past few months, Elements of Madness partners/contributors have shared some of these filmmaker interactions on Q-Bits. Today we talk with Minari writer/director Lee Isaac Chung and producer Christina Oh.
At some point in most of our lives, we search for meaning, purpose and may even ask the question … where do I belong? Those are just some of the story questions connected to the six-time Oscar nominee Minari. A semi-autobiographical drama exploring the immigrant’s story from a unique perspective, Minari follows Korean-American farmers pursuing the American Dream in the Ozarks of Arkansas. This award-winning film examines the meaning of family; it addresses perseverance; its characters face cultural barriers and financial challenges, and they seek to find out what it means to call a place “home.”
Noel T. Manning II: I think this is such a perfect film for these times. Why do you feel this film is connecting to so many people across cultures and languages at this moment?
Christina Oh: I genuinely feel like it is because we really, truly poured our whole hearts and souls into this film in a sort of honest way. I do think nowadays, in today’s environment, people respond to honesty and truth. Minari was a vulnerable sense of storytelling.
When we set out to make this film, we had no idea how much we could achieve in less than a year. It was fairly quick, it’s pretty rare that you get to read something and be prepping it two-three months later. For example, we (Plan B Entertainment) just made a movie we’ve been trying to make for ten years. It’s with a highly auteur film director based on an IP (intellectual property) that everyone knows; sometimes it just takes a long time. So, for something like Minari to happen, where it emotionally and personally hit me, that was something special. All the puzzle pieces came together; it’s like my entire life had prepared me for this.
I knew Emile Mosseri (composer); I’d met Harry Yoon (our editor); I was a fan of Lachlan Milne’s (cinematographer) films; I had a weird connection to Young Ok Lee (production designer), so I knew that we could get this project done really quickly. It felt like kismet or like we were touched by divinity in a way. It’s a pretty crazy and incredible thing that happened on Minari.
Lee Isaac Chung: I was proud of the work we all did, and you’re right Christina, we were being honest. I’d hope this would happen, that we’d reach people. It’s very touching that people are responding to it the way that they are. We really did pour everything into this film; I’m thankful we did.
Christina Oh: I really think we also benefitted from Parasite, obviously, it helped break that barrier of ‘reading subtitles.’ A lot of people (watching Minari) probably did not grow up on a farm, live in a trailer, or maybe aren’t even Korean. Yet, it’s reaching with audiences.
I didn’t have the same upbringing as (Lee) Isaac (Chung), yet I still felt very connected to this story on a very emotional, visceral level. Whether it’s my parents fighting growing up, or running around outside being a kid, that stuff is weirdly universal in its specificity. It’s kind of bizarre in that sense. I think maybe that’s what audiences are grabbing onto, especially now.
A24 and Plan B Entertainment’s, Minari was released in theaters on February 14 and is now available for home viewing on multiple platforms. Minari has earned nearly 75 wins during awards’ season including seven for best picture and 11 for original screenplay. Available on Blu-ray and DVD May 18th, 2021.
Elements of Madness appreciates the opportunity to engage with filmmakers and the films they create through interviews, critical analysis, and topical engagement and open observation.
Noel T. Manning is a member of the CCA, SEFCA, and the NCFCA and is also the host of the television program and radio show Meet Me at the Movies. He’s the founder of the Real to Reel Film Fest and has served as an adjunct professor of film studies. When he’s not embracing mainstream, indie, international, documentary or art films, he’s digging into the world of cinema by chatting with the filmmakers who are making cinematic art a reality.
Categories: Filmmaker Interviews