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Asian content

Korea’s Minari, other Asian content crash Hollywood

Mar 10, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Minari
Minari

In the US and European film markets, where movies directed by Westerners or non-Asian filmmakers have long dominated the industry, Asians are finally arriving; and they are grabbing major film awards.

In late February, Minari, a semi-autobiographical drama about a family of South Korean immigrants, won the best foreign film at the 78th Golden Globes.

It also won a trophy at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards presented by the American-Canadian Critics Choice Association to honor the finest in cinematic achievement.

At February’s Golden Globes, Chinese American director Chloe Zhao's Nomadland won the top prize for best drama motion picture. Zhao also became the first Asian woman and the second woman ever to win a Golden Globe for best director of Nomadland, a drama about a middle-aged woman who travels across the US in a van seeking itinerant work.

The two films are also expected to compete for the best motion picture and best director categories at the Academy Awards on Apr. 26.

The Farewell
The Farewell

POWER OF ASIAN-ORIGIN CONTENT

Movie critics say the rise of Minari and Nomadland to prominence is significant in that they represent the power of Asian-origin content in Hollywood as well as in other major markets, where filmmakers are struggling to gain the hearts of moviegoers amid a lack of unique, fresh and engaging content.

Directed by Korean American Lee Isaac Chung with relatively lesser-known actors and actresses like Steven Yeun, Han Yeri and Alan Kim, Minari tells the story of a Korean immigrant family that moves to Arkansas in the 1980s and sets up a farm to pursue their own American dream.

Veteran Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung takes the role of Soonja, a livewire grandmother who changes the family dynamics when she arrives in rural Arkansas to babysit the kids.

The film's title, Minari, refers to the namesake watery vegetable used in many Korean dishes. It is tough enough to survive everywhere and robust in flavor, serving as a metaphor for the family who struggles and survives in the new world to realize their dream.

Analysts say the popularity of Asian content likely accelerated with director Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy thriller, Parasite, which in 2019 became the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Nomadland
Nomadland

PARASITE TRIGGERS ASIAN WAVE IN HOLLYWOOD

Parasite won four leading awards at the 92nd Academy Awards in February 2020: best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best international feature film, becoming the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for best picture.

Another film with Asian content that has received accolades in Hollywood is The Farewell, directed by Chinese American director Lulu Wang.

The Farewell, Wang’s autobiographical film, is about a reunion her family held in China to say goodbye to her terminally ill grandmother without revealing her diagnosis.

It received widespread acclaim from critics, with particular praise for Wang’s screenplay and the performance of Korean American actress Awkwafina, who won in 2020 the Golden Globe award for best actress in a motion picture – comedy or musical. She’s the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe in any lead actress film category.

“Directors of Asian descent are increasingly playing a bigger role in Hollywood, bringing a happy change to the way films are made,” said an official at AUD, the Korean importer and distributor of The Farewell.

▲ Wind Pixar Part 2 | Wind Movie Best Scenes | Wind Film Pixar Sparkshorts

CULTURAL BREAKTHROUGH

More recently, Pixar Animation Studios released a SparkShorts film entitled Wind on YouTube in support of Asian and Asian American communities on the heels of an uptick in crime against Asian Americans in the US.

Directed by Edwin Chang, Wind is a tale of a boy and his grandmother, who live in a mysterious sink-hole full of floating rocks and strange debris of disused items and machines, trying to escape their home.

Veteran Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung
Veteran Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung

Critics say accolades from the Academy and other awards are proof that Asian content, which often feature love, affection and caring among members of a large family, also appeal to people in the West.

“The movie content market in America and Europe is sharply divided with blockbusters on one side and indie films on the other. Asian content armed with fresh ideas and commercial viability is finding the right place in between the two,” said a film critic.

Write to Hee-Kyung Kim at hkkim@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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