Saturday, March 20, 2021

Minari: what it means to be foreign

After I saw Minari, I told someone that I found it "generic".

I would like to take that statement back.

Minari is a 2020 film starring Steven Yuen, Han Ye-ri, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho, Youn Yuh-jung.

A Korean family that moved to Arkansas from California to start a new life, along with their daughter and son. 

I see a dad trying his hardest to make something of himself. To have a new start. I see a mother trying desperately to keep their children safe and well. The clashes and fights that happen because of this. Hard to say, if there weren't any kids in the picture, if they would still be together.

I see a child trying to wrestle with his health, his bed wetting and his new grandma that came into his house.

It won "Best Picture - Foreign" at the Golden Globes.

Is it foreign because of the language that they were talking in? 

Is it foreign because it features an Asian cast?

Detailing their trials and tribulations, their fight for the American Dream. Is that foreign? 


I found it generic... because I've seen it, I've heard it, hell, I lived through some of it. 

Being so happy to the point of crying because of chilli powder? Been there with salt water popsicles. True story, I happily drove to a supermarket super out of the way to get that. Paid like 5x the cost. Best time ever.

A lot of the stand ups that feature immigrant comedians already covered these scenarios a lot. In my mind, I thought it was already well known. I realized then, perhaps the same as what I said in my writeup of The Farewell, people who understood the situation laughed because they could relate, people who didn't understand laughed because the situation described was just plain absurd to them.

What I realized... is that we downplay a lot of the experiences that we went through. We downplay them because people:

  • won't understand
  • can't relate
  • treat any experience that's out of the norm as foreign (and in turn weird, if not hostile)

The events of this week, the spa shootings and the subsequent coverage of said shootings, tells me that representation matters.

It's great that Minari is here this year, just as The Farewell was there 2 years ago. Stories, that are told, and shared, most importantly, recognized.


Minari is also a vegetable that's also used in Korean cooking. Known for its resiliency, and its ability to adapt and grow. 

Fitting that it is worked into the film and used as the title.

Resiliency. Adaptability.

Just like minari, we'll do the same.

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