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Argument: Minari Is About Korean American Faith as Well as Family Minari Is About Korean American Faith as W...
Lee Isaac Chung’s movie Minari won plaudits as well as an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for its nuanced and moving portrayal of the Korean American Yi family’s settlement in rural Arkansas. But while most reviewers understandably focused on race, one of the movie’s most significant themes is the Yi family’s relationship with Christianity. The movie’s focus on the Korean American family’s relationship with the church is unsurprising: Christianity is deeply interwoven with modern Korean history and especially with Koreans’ relationship with the United States. The Christian faith was a major conduit through which Koreans negotiated modernity and personally and ideologically connected with the United States.
Throughout the movie, Minari reveals Korean Americans’ complex relationship with the church. The first meaningful friendship the Yi family builds with a local is with the farmhand Paul (played by Will Patton) who—awkwardly but genuinely—bonds with the family with his off-kilter brand of Christian faith that involves exorcism and carrying a large wooden cross on weekends. A key moment of the narrative arc is when the patriarch, Jacob (played by Steven Yeun) relents and agrees to attend the local church at the urging of his wife, Monica (played by Han Ye-ri). The overwhelmingly white congregation in Arkansas stumbles as it tries to welcome the Yi family, with their good intentions poorly executed through unfamiliarity with the new Korean immigrants. Yet the Yi family, especially its young son, David (played by Alan Kim), manages to form a bond with members of the local Arkansas community.
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