Aram and Kelly (and Seungwoo) talk about MINARI (2020) and give their earnest first reacts.
This episode uses or mentions the following multimedia samples and sources:
- “Say Good night”, Joakim Karud
- “Morpho Diana”, Rachel Collier
- “Rain Song”, Emile Mosseri, Han Ye-ri
Please note below transcription was made using speech recognition software, and as such may contain inaccuracies, misspellings, or errors.
Kelly Lui 0:11
Today’s episode includes spoilers for the movie MINARI. If you haven’t had a chance to watch Lee Isaac Chung’s latest film, and you care not to be spoiled, please come back to this episode after you’ve had a chance to watch it.
Aram Collier 0:48
All right, so we just stepped out of a movie theater. We just watched MINARI, the three of us. No, we didn’t, we actually watched it. I watched it online. But this is kind of like, going to be a conversation as if we just walked out of a movie theater. And we’re talking about this movie. It’s been It premiered last year at the 2020s Sundance Film Festival. And I had been paying attention to it and seeing When is it going to come out? When is it going to come out? But now it’s come out. So I don’t know. I’m curious to hear what you what you all are thinking about this film.
Kelly Lui 1:28
That’s the thing, I’m just trying to figure out where to start. I have to say, I think going off what Aaron was mentioning, you know, we heard about this fall last year. And it isn’t until now that we have the chance to watch it.
Aram Collier 1:44
There has been a lot of anticipation for a lot of Well, I mean, for this film, for sure. There’s been a lot of word of mouth. And it did get a lot of buzz at last year’s Sundance and, and you know, just like so many things from 2020 there’s gonna be this dump of 2021 films that are, you know, highly anticipated. And so, you know, I think we wanted to do kind of a instant react and usually we have much more measured and thoughtful approaches, but I I guess I want to hear your hot takes, which we usually don’t do on on backstory, since it’s backstory, not friend story. dad joke
Seungwoo Baek 2:24
Actually, on that topic, Steven Yeun as Korean dad I’ve been waiting for so long, just since I’ve heard about the first time I heard about it. And I think he doesn’t disappoint. Like he clearly carries through this Korean American Dad. So well, in all all of his inflexibility of character. Hmm. The his relationship that he builds and fails to build with other members of the family as well as his immediate millions of Arkansas farmland.
Aram Collier 2:55
You know, he’s great. Like, the films that he’s been doing in the last few years, that he’s showed up in such different roles. And, you know, he’s really adventurous in what he’s doing. So, I don’t know, just shout out to him, because he’s, he’s doing it right. In my opinion.
Seungwoo Baek 3:11
Yeah, I want to see more of his dad energy. Please play more dads.
Aram Collier 3:15
I mean, one of his my favorite roles of his was, he had a kind of a small supporting role in Sorry to bother you. Or he was this kind of, like, labor activist in the Bay Area. And I just thought that was great. Because, you know, people just like, you know, complain about Asian male representation. And it’s like, like, the type guy he played in that film. Like, cuz I’m from the Bay Area. It’s like, those are the dudes that I knew, like growing up or saw, like, you know, like, interesting, confident, sexy Asian dude. Like, like, you know, that’s, that’s cool. And you know, there’s no mistake, I think that, you know, boots Riley who did that film is from the Bay Area two. But anyway, what do you think, Kelly? What do you think about Steven yeun?
Kelly Lui 4:00
Yeah, I mean, I think just in general, I thought the casting was really well done. Actually, I have to say, going to this film I didn’t really read read much about what the film was about. So when I did watch a trailer, I was a bit skeptical actually.
Aram Collier 4:19
Kelly Lui 4:20
Yeah. Because I, I didn’t I don’t think from the trailer, like I got a good idea of, of kind of his characters, like, already their history in the Americas. Like I had just assumed that from the trailer, they literally just moved to Arkansas to start this farm is like, kind of redemptive, like, let’s start a new life and build a good one. So I was like, Okay, let’s, let’s see, let’s see where this goes. But, you know, I was pleasantly surprised that the characters were definitely more complex and it wasn’t. I mean, I myself realized that had some misconceptions just from the trailer even though I was very already very compelled. The music trailer gets me teary.
Aram Collier 5:09
It does set you up to, you know, I think it fulfills that those expectations right like the trailers don’t like you kind of know what you’re in for I also really liked the casting. It was great. I noticed that the casting director, the editor production design, were all Korean Americans. So, so that’s cool. I mean, the harmony was great. I know she’s been in a lot of shows in Korea and stuff. And
Seungwoo Baek 5:34
yeah, Youn Yuh-jung is like sweeping all the awards just across the board is what I’ve been hearing that it’s really the only thing left is Oscars. And, you know, in the in the aftermath, and then in the in the afterlife of a parasite. Why not? You know, there’s absolutely no reason Han Ye-ri, it does amazing job playing the wife, Monica. And both of them together. Such plays such a crucial, I think part coupling even more so than Steven young and hunyadi. Together. Mm hmm. This is such a central figure to the movie, even though I understand that this is probably Steven Yeun vehicle. But yeah, the whole ensemble. Fantastic. Fantastic, john, really,
Aram Collier 6:22
you know, I had a, I had a, I had something I wanted to a topic, I guess, or a theme. And I wanted to get your sense of it. So I don’t mean, I don’t like to use the word authenticity. But this film felt very familiar. Right, there’s a familiarity to it. And I think, for you, Seungwoo, you mentioned that, like when we were talking, you know, before we press record, and and so I’m curious, if you want to talk a little bit about that. And then I also want to talk about is very familiar to me, in that this idea of the American dream.
Seungwoo Baek 7:04
as a as a whole, this feels very authentic. Period, like end of sentence. And then I think there are a lot of movies where as like Asian American, Asian, Canadian, Asian diaspora, you’re constantly on this edge of wandering it, it could have been a bit more, it could have been a bit more or like, Oh, they try to approximate it, but they didn’t really go the distance. But Menard doesn’t have that problem. I don’t think at all. The tenor is fine, emotional register is perfect. There are a lot of moments when the Steven yeun and honey are fighting Jacob, Jacob, Jacob and Monica are fighting. Where do you feel just absolutely uncomfortable, or at least I feel absolutely uncomfortable, because I could be so easily recalled back to a lot of my memories of, you know, my parents fighting and you know, raising their voices. But it’s not just the fact that they’re fighting that recalls that but it’s just how they said it, what they said it in what context they set it, and then all these refrains tiny things. So like in terms of authenticity, representation, I think that it hits that golden bar that a lot of Asian diasporic audience always kind of looks for in movies like this. And there are also a lot of very tender moments when especially the grandma brings together the chili powders and the bear cheese and like the, when honey gets like, or cooked and starts crying, that’s like, perfect. That’s exactly. I’m pretty sure I recently asked my mom to send me quotes. You got it? Because the chili powder here is not the same as the ones from Korea, you know? And, and my mom knows exactly, she’s like, Yes, I’ll just send you the good quality stuff.
Kelly Lui 8:47
I have to say on that scene, though. It actually, me of this time, I was in Costa Rica for a few months doing an internship and my parents came to visit, and my mom literally bought a small little Tupperware of party mix. And at that point, I don’t think I had party mix for a few months. I know it’s funny, you know, maybe you thought I’d say something else. But no, it was party makes, and I literally cried eating it. Because it made me think of home. But anyways, that said that scene was I think the one part that I probably cried the most in this film.
Seungwoo Baek 9:24
Yeah. And it certainly feels like it wasn’t a movie surrounded by cultural consultant. Rather, it was truly a movie coming from that I think source of someone who has this experience is a core part of their either upbringing or their lived experience. They’re just like, whatever went into the writing of that movie, I think, had the right direction orientation that we as an audience are constantly I think craving for at least at this time of our lives.
Aram Collier 9:53
Yeah. And I think it’s also if you’re of a certain age, you know, I mean, I’m a little older than you, but great and I were watching it and, and, you know, there’s just so many times throughout she was like, Oh, it’s so true. Oh, it’s so true. You know what I mean? Because it’s, you know, it is a period piece. And that, you know, maybe some of those things are particular to that time, or it’s kind of like, it is our parents generation that a little bit more of a Pioneer Generation, if you want to say, you know, so, um, you know, the other thing that seemed very familiar to me, was kind of the genre, you know, and, or, or the theme, like, the, the, it fits so well into the American Dream genre, you know, and, you know, for me, I’m American. I’ve been here for 15 years in Canada. But, but so it’s given me that perspective to like, Look, look back on that it’s, you know, American Dream is so important to Americans who tend to be very inward looking and this self mythologizing. And I don’t mean like myth in terms of like, Oh, it’s not true. But just like, there’s this epic mythologizing is so important to Americans. And I’m curious, like, for for you, do you feel like that is distancing? Is that is that interesting to you? Um, is it so familiar that it’s like, oh, yes, American Dream movie? I think.
Seungwoo Baek 11:35
For me, what stood out most or the kind of role discursive role that this movie occupies in 2021 is not necessarily because it depicts American dream, both in its attempts and moments of triumphs, as well as moments of failure, which is significant. And I definitely want to kind of talk about that later. But the most important part of the way in which it talks about American dream, is I think it asks the question of what is beyond that? Because I think a lot of immigrants, I don’t want to universalize I don’t want to universalize it. But I feel like a lot of immigrant experience comes with it the realization that American Dream is not all that all it’s cut out to be not. It’s not what the myth is, like, the myth and the reality is very different. Not not just to say it’s difficult, because difficulty is part of the American dream, like the bootstrapping, pulling, pulling yourself by the bootstraps, and you know, becoming successful as an individual or whatever. It’s all part of the myth. But the fact that the myth is not realizable, in a number of ways in a very interesting and then complicated and, and oftentimes tragic way. And I think that’s at the base of, or it’s part of a lot of immigrant experience. So when you know that, and when you’re confronted with an entity, or when you’re confronted with reality, where a lot of people have vested interest in maintaining and retelling that story of American dream, we’re, it becomes, I think, necessary for us to talk about what is beyond that, like, because to not dream, an American Dream doesn’t mean to not dream. And I think those are some of the questions that starts to come out as part of minorities narrative telling. And, yeah, I think the question then becomes, like, what, how well, does it tease out those questions?
Aram Collier 13:49
I think that’s really interesting. The way you putting it in terms of what lies beyond, right. I think that, you know, there’s there’s so often I mean, this is a narrative issue, I guess, is is we tend towards first contact narratives. Right? Not, not like the years later narratives, right. And, and so I mean, yeah, I mean, this definitely fits into that. Right? I mean, that that is the old. That’s the old adage, right? It’s like the two types of stories is stranger comes to town or person goes on a journey. Right? So yeah, I don’t know, I guess I don’t know. I mean, there’s no answer to it. But this film does a great job of like, being part of that kind of narrative. And maybe that’s one of those things is, is like, Oh, you know, we just want a good movie about that from our community. And I guess one of the things Like going into it, I was a little bit. And this is not fair to the movie, I think. But I guess one of the things I was wary about, it seems to be so lined up for all the for all well earned reasons to be an award winner to get high profile and it’s all well deserved. I guess, you know, the part of me that’s wanting and it’s not the film’s fault at all, it’s just like, are we gonna get something of this profile that is not about immigration? right or not about? stranger comes to town. Strangers already been here. You know what I mean? And I, and maybe that’s kind of what you’re also talking about, too.
Seungwoo Baek 15:44
So yeah, I guess I’m also kind of thinking about it, because Tiger tail is also kind of fresh. In my mind, I recently watched that, to quote unquote, prepare for menari. Because I know it’s in that same timber of also historical moment, I guess, of Asian American filmmaking. And it’s, it’s tricky, because this question of what lies beyond how do we reject our mythology of American dream? Without letting go of hope? Like, how do we dethrone this false hope, is ongoing question of our times. And there, we’re clearly seeing a very violent kind of auto immune response to those efforts and those discourses in moments of racial violence. And in moments of seeing, you know, white supremacism kind of try to reaffirm itself, both on screen and off screen, in politics and in our domestic lives. So in that in that way, perhaps it’s unfair for, you know, us to think of an ask for these kind of stories to be told through a very, I think, involved projects, like films. But at the same time, I think it’s also definitely an impulse that’s so understandable, and maybe even necessary to kind of be on that edge of like, urging ourselves, each other to think about those hopeful outcomes, of extending ourselves beyond this, you know, mythos which is also in some form of mirror that kind of reflects back. Because I think that’s the type of character that we see Jacob be where he is so caught up in his social value, as opposed to Monica and Grandma, who actually perform the necessary labor of every day to provide emotional support, provide domesticity, and, you know, childcare, to for their families, continued survival.
Aram Collier 17:57
There’s a line that’s early in the film outside of the, you know, when they start their job, sexing the chickens, and Jacob says, David, you know, they separate, separate out the male chicks, because they don’t taste good. They’re, they’re no use. So in your life, you have to figure out your use. I’m paraphrasing, but like, what is your you have to find a role? You know, and I, I guess I’m still thinking about that a little bit in terms of how that plays out for his character. But I thought that was such an interesting prompt, you know?
Kelly Lui 18:38
Yeah, I think on that, that’s kind of where maybe I was also kind of really bummed up about the film, just because here it’s kind of like, blatant the ways like, you know, understanding, like, the role of men and their importance, but also, you know, the uselessness yet, as we see this family, we, we, we barely get to know the sister Anne, who also plays an integral role as part of the family. You know, I just, I just felt, I don’t know, I think I was, like, bummed out for other reasons where it felt also, just as real that maybe like, say, and narrative wasn’t as like given much time or, or as much like, I guess, I don’t know. She was only present in very specific moments. But at the same time, I have to say like, I know, in terms of the grandma role still bring, like upholding that. emotional labor and domestic to city to the family. It was also really refreshing that the grandma was just like, I don’t cook. I don’t you know, you do your thing. Let me just teach you how to play cards.
Aram Collier 19:54
I think kids while they’re playing cards,
Seungwoo Baek 19:57
she’s a cool Grandma, who Gamble’s and swears
Kelly Lui 20:00
Yeah, there was like, also it like interesting, kind of, in some ways I like sets up this dichotomy between, like, between, okay, what is Korean? What is American, but at the same time, like, really I feel like the grandmother, like what she brought to me was also just, you know, her knowledge as an elder like her, like her wisdom of just like, No, I just want to, like show. Like, what what’s there to fear or like, I think that snake scene in particular, I really, I don’t know, felt kind of moved by that where it’s like, No, you don’t have to be scared, you should just let it it’s actually better just to be able to see it versus then to scare away and then know that it’s lurking somewhere.
Aram Collier 20:53
All of the things that we’ve talked about, this is a really great film, there’s so much to think about, to talk about. People do get a chance to see it. We wanted to frame this as a conversation post theater screening conversation, and I think it’s essentially been that so hopefully, people will find a chance to more or less quote unquote, watch together and talk about the film because it is a it is a really great achievement. And, you know, we want so much out of these films and really delivers so much.
Kelly Lui 21:31
Backstory podcast is presented by Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. It’s Written and hosted by Aram Collier, and Kelly Lui. And it’s edited and produced by Seungwoo Baek. For more information about the show our festival or upcoming events, check out our show notes. If you have questions or comments, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai