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Oscar Contender 'Minari' Hopes to Connect with Korean-American Story

Minari is being considered for a number of awards this weekend at the Oscars. It is the story of a Korean-American family.
Minari is being considered for a number of awards this weekend at the Oscars. It is the story of a Korean-American family.
Oscar Contender 'Minari' Hopes to Connect with Korean-American Story
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Minari is a vegetable known as Korea’s water celery or watercress. It is also the name of a film nominated for a number of Academy Awards, known as Oscars, on Sunday.

The film, produced by Christina Oh, received nominations for best picture and best original score from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Lee Isaac Chung who wrote and directed the film is nominated for best director and best original screenplay. Its actors, Steven Yeun and Youn Yuh-jung, are nominated for best actor and best supporting actress.

Lee Isaac Chung based the movie on his own family’s story. They moved from California to the southern state of Arkansas to start a farm growing Korean vegetables in the 1980s.

Steven Yeun plays the father, Jacob, who hopes to sell vegetables to markets and restaurants with a large number of Korean American customers. He wants to start a new life for his family, which includes his wife, Monica, and his children Anne and David. The 73-year-old Youn plays Soon-ja, a grandmother who comes from Korea to live with them.

The movie centers on the family’s struggles in rural America.

Jacob has trouble finding water and growing his vegetables. Monica is unhappy living on a farm. The children, who see themselves as Americans, think of their grandmother as a stranger from a foreign country. They also deal with racism in a part of the U.S. where everyone else is white.

It is the story of a husband and a wife whose life has not gone as planned. It is the story of immigrants trying to fit in while keeping their own culture. It is the story of a little boy and his grandmother. And it is the story of an American family. The Korean language, however, is the main language in the movie.

The Golden Globes, another movie award event, gave Minari the best foreign film award. But many people were unhappy that it was not able to compete with other American movies. It also added to a conversation that Asian-Americans, especially those born in the U.S., worry that white people do not think of them as American.

The issue became even more important with news reports of violence against Asian people in the U.S. and the killing of Asian-American workers at businesses in the state of Georgia in early March.

Youn, who plays the grandmother, said she thinks life must be difficult for young Asian-Americans who “think they are Americans but in the eyes of Americans, they don’t look American.” She added many Asians came to the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s because they saw the country as a “dream land.”

The movie is up against seven others for the best picture award. They are: The Father, Judas and the Black Messiah, Mank, Nomadland, Promising Young Woman, The Sound of Metal and The Trial of the Chicago 7.

Even if Minari does not win one of the major awards, those involved in making the movie think it will make an emotional connection with everyone who sees it.

Speaking with the Associated Press, Chung and others said anyone who has ever taken a risk or tried something new will see some part of themselves in the Minari story. Especially, he added, those who came to the U.S. from another country to start a new life.

I’m Dan Friedell.

Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting by the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

score –n. the music that is written for a movie or play

screenplay –n. the lines in a script written for a film

grandmother –n. a female family member who is the mother of a child’s parent