The only thing lovelier to us right now than all those vaccine card selfies? Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari,” a Sundance darling and Golden Globe winner that’s set in rural Northwest Arkansas. It’s both a tough and tender film, and it’s placed Chung at the center of conversations around the 2021 awards ceremony season, for good reason. We interviewed Chung for the February issue of the Arkansas Times; find that conversation here.
The evening before “Minari” was officially released in February, the Arkansas Cinema Society hosted a premiere screening of the drama, followed by a Q&A with ACS founder and filmmaker Jeff Nichols. Gems from the film and from that conversation were many: the brilliance of the cast, clever nods to 1980s Arkansas culture (like the Michael W. Smith tune playing softly in the background of a forced conversation at a church potluck), the poetry in Chung’s explanation that the film’s namesake plant is one that peaks only after its second spring (I’m not crying, you’re crying), and the following exchange:
Nichols: Part of the thing that thrilled me about your film is [that] I went into it expecting a lot of things, especially expecting, inevitably, for an Arkansan to show up and be mean or bigoted or something. And that just never really came out. It almost feels kind of like the opposite — that the characters they encounter are actually almost always helpful. Like, even the banker. I was like, “OK, here it comes, here it comes!” This scene. … I’m curious: was that a conscious choice?
Chung: We felt like we were one with the town. We felt embraced by the town, and that’s the sort of thing I wanted to portray. I wanted to show that, you know, there’s so much more in common for us as people than we often think.
A24, the film studio behind “Minari,” also partnered with ACS across the country to screen the film virtually as a ticketed event until Feb. 25, with a portion of ticket proceeds going to ACS, but those screenings sold out quickly. Luckily, A24 allotted a few more virtual screenings this week, which you can register for here.