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How the ‘Minari’ Team Looked to Their Own Families to Form a New One Onscreen — Watch

Director Lee Isaac Chung and stars Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-jung Youn, and Alan S. Kim talk how their Korean roots helped inspire the Oscar contender.

MINARI_01590 Steven Yeun, Alan S. Kim, Yuh-Jung Youn, Yeri Han, Noel ChoDirector Lee Isaac ChungCredit: Josh Ethan Johnson


Josh Ethan Johnson

Minari” got a boost in the awards race last weekend when it picked up the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, accepted virtually by director Lee Isaac Chung. The moving story of a Korean immigrant family planting new roots in rural Kansas in the 1980s began picking up acclaim way back at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020, and has been adored by audiences ever since. It’s now available on VOD and in theaters from distributor A24. Check out an exclusive featurette with director Chung and cast members Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Yuh-jung Youn, and Alan S. Kim below.

“Steven had really transormed into Jacob, and I remember truly understanding the weight that my father had, and I thought, ‘What he is doing right now is very magical,'” said Lee Isaac Chung, who drew upon his own immigrant childhood growing up in Arkansas to write the script.

Steven Yeun turned to his own memories of his father leaving behind a life as an architect in Seoul to come to the United States. “I was really battling for myself who I am, and who I think my parents’ generation was,” Yeun said. In a recent interview with IndieWire, he said “He made a decision to uproot his family to get land. That’s such a bold move…As the son of my father I also resonated with that feeling, of wanting to make my own life, and wanting to find who I am and what my purpose is, and what I’m here to do, that existential, isolated loneliness that comes with that feeling.”

Yeri Han, who plays Jacob’s wife Monica in the film, said, “I got a closer look at the person Monica is and I thought of my grandmother, my mother, my aunts in Korea.” Instead of just imitating Lee Isaac Chung’s mother, Han also tapped her own background as a sprawling Korean family living in a small town, with six aunts, and parents that married young.

The role of Soonja, played by Yuh-jung Youn, is based upon memories of Chung’s own grandmother, and the film is dedicated to her, but the veteran Korean actress’ performance is not an imitation of her, either. Instead, Youn was inspired by her own spiky great grandmother, who died when she was 10 years old, to play the role.

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