My parents immigrated to the US in the late 1960's and raised us in small mid-western towns in the 70's and 80's. We were basically the only Asians wherever we landed. My father preferred the 'wholesomeness' of small town life. We experienced innocent ignorance, awkward curiosity, exclusion and rarely, overt racism. I was never capable of explaining to my non-Asian friends (who were full of goodwill), how my life was so different than theirs. It was too much to explain. It was easier to assimilate in public, protect the privacy of my hyphenated existence, and let them say that I was 'just like them' (their way of saying 'you belong') but landed on me as 'we don't really see you'.
Out of nowhere, 'Minari' is here and has unexpectedly opened a crevasse into my heart, exposing the very specific core of a Korean-American household that I protected...that I thought was too complicated to explain. It is so bittersweet for me to watch. There are many, many tiny details in this movie that will only be recognized by Korean-Americans of my generation. The director has left us secret notes everywhere.
MINARI: The fact that this movie exists, that it is being universally lauded, that it was created with restraint and nuance (not a single cringe) is so shocking to me because it's a thing I never knew I was starving for. It's something I didn't think was possible. To think a thing could be made that opens a clear view into what it meant to come to this country with 'nothing', to work like hell and suffer, to assimilate and have kids that reject the 'homeland' - all while being an extremely tight-knit, isolated nuclear family who loves each other in a verbal and emotional language that is not typical for the average American. It opens my heart and reminds me of the void that's existed in me for so long. I never thought this window could open and expose this life with such dignity and respect. And to see it recognized, appreciated, awarded... to have something of my weird and seemingly inexplicable life celebrated is simply astonishing.
Thank you to everyone who made this movie happen. And thank you to everyone who is interested enough to watch it.