When director and screenwriter Lee Isaac Chung won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language film for "Minari" on Sunday, his daughter joyfully leapt into his arms and shouted, "I prayed! I prayed!" It was easily the most adorable and most viral moment of the night. We asked Chung how they've been celebrating since.
"We've been trying to shield her from knowing she went viral so she doesn't start to think that's a goal in life," Chung told Townhall on Wednesday. "But she just wanted to sit next to me like two hours before we went on...I grabbed a chair to get her in the shot and then I rewrote what I was going to say if we happened to win. I had something prepared and I just thought, if she's going to sit next to me, then I want to really speak into that a little bit."
Chung adds that his wife was sitting just off camera, in her sweatpants.
We wondered if his new golden hardware had sunk in yet.
"To be honest, no," he said. "Maybe if it arrived in the mail and I can pick it up I might feel something with it. It's really surreal."
But the humble director probably shouldn't be surprised, not after the rave reviews "Minari" has been receiving. (It's currently 98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.) The semi-autobiographical film follows the struggles of the Yi family as they move to a farm in Arkansas. The charming cast includes Steven Yeun, Han Ye-ri, Youn Yuh-jung, Noel Cho, 8-year-old Alan S. Kim as the scene-stealing David, and a zealously religious neighbor played by Will Patton. The film raises the question, what exactly is the American Dream? Chung shared his definition.
"I would define the American Dream maybe a little bit differently from other people," he responded. "I would look toward the people who are sort of allowing that dreaming to happen. Often these are people who are kind of invisible in life."
For him, the dream makers have been his dad and the women in his family, who he said made a lot of sacrifices for him. His mom worked in a dusty factory, while his grandma came from Korea to take care of him and his sister while his parents were working.
"It makes it seem as though I made it to this place just based on my own hard work," Chung said. "But really I'm here because of the work of so many people who did things invisibly, and to me, that is really an important part of the American Dream story that we might not talk about as much."
He mused that may be part of the reason that "Minari" is reaching audiences beyond the Asian American community.
"It surprised me," Chung said. "And I feel like it has to do with a shared sense of relationships within families. That is something that we all understand. Doesn't matter if you're Asian American, doesn't matter if you're growing up in the South, or you're on a farm. You just understand what it means to live in a family that's going through hard times and trying to love each other and trying to survive together."
Faith plays a sizable role in the film, which Chung says was by design. Growing up in the South and as a Korean American, he says Christianity has always been a significant part of his identity.
"I still come back to the idea of grace," he shared. "And a love and everything I feel I have in my life that is good I thank God for. It is an important part of my life, and that's why it's in the film."
"Minari," from Plan B and A24, is in theaters now and streaming everywhere.