Steven Yeun’s Minari to Yoo Teo’s Past Lives: VOTE for your favorite film about Korean-Americans
As Past Lives earns a major nod at the 2024 BAFTA Film Awards, let’s take a look at other films with Korean-American protagonists. Pick your favorite movie among the options given in the poll below!
Earlier, there was a lack of representation of Asian-Americans in global films and dramas. With the changing times, there has been a surge in such projects that shed light on the journey of Asian Americans struggling to find their identity in a foreign land.
With the rise in K-pop and K-drama, South Korea has established its cultural influence across the globe. Subsequently, many filmmakers make cinematic masterpieces like Minari, specifically bringing Korean-American protagonists to the spotlight.
In this poll given below, we have curated five of the best films about Korean-Americans. Read on to know more about these films, and then pick your favorite one!
Past Lives (2023)
Past Lives is a heartwarming romance tale by South Korean-Canadian director and playwright Celine Song. The film follows the lives of two childhood friends, Na Young and Hae Sung, who lose contact as the former’s parents migrate to Toronto.
Two decades later, the duo meets again in New York; however, the two lead different lives. While Na Young has changed her name to Nora and is now married, Hae Sung recently broke up with his girlfriend. In a fateful encounter, the two talk about destiny, love, and the choices they made that changed the course of their lives.
Unlike other films in this list, which mainly explore the topic of cultural conflicts, Umma is a supernatural horror movie that deals with the protagonist's past. Starring award-winning actress Sandra Oh, Umma (or eomma, the Korean word for mother) touches upon the subject of parent-child relationships in the most unexpected manner.
The movie revolves around Amanda (Sandra Oh), a first-generation Korean-American woman who stays with her teenage daughter (Fivel Stewart) on farmland in the middle of nowhere. Things take an ugly turn as Amanda’s uncle arrives from South Korea and informs her about her estranged mother’s death. Then, the film gives a glimpse of Amanda’s traumatic childhood through her grim flashbacks.
After receiving her mom’s remains, eerie things start to happen. As a result, Amanda decides to hold a traditional Korean farewell ceremony to keep her deceased mother in peace.
Minari is a poignant tale of a Korean-American family who moved to the countryside in the 1980s. As the family's breadwinner, Jacob Yi (Steven Yeun) dreams of starting his own farming operation on a large farm in rural Arkansas. The family members support each other and remain resilient as they confront various challenges on their path to success.
The film was recognized worldwide for its unique storytelling, direction, and exemplary performance by the cast members, including Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Alan Kim, Youn Yuh Jung, and more. Minari bagged six nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, with senior actress Youn Yuh Jung taking the trophy home for Best Supporting Actress.
The melodrama film stars renowned actor John Cho as Jin Lee, who works in South Korea as an English translator. He comes to Columbus, Indiana, to take care of his ailing father, who is in a coma. He doesn’t seem to have a close relationship with his dad, as the latter only cared about his architectural work and didn’t pay attention to his child.
In Columbus, Jin Lee meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent high school graduate who works at a library and looks after her mother recovering from drug addiction. As the duo open up to each other and share their personal experiences, they build a great connection as peers.
Seoul Searching (2016)
In this comedy-drama film, Seoul Searching, a bunch of high-schoolers gather at a summer camp. The movie is set in the 1980s when the Korean government used to sponsor summer programs for the Korean diaspora to help them learn about their culture. It features Justin Chon, Jessika Van, Cha In Pyo, Teo Yoo, and more as the main cast.
The students come from different countries, such as Mexico, the US, and London, and consider this camp a party zone. In the midst of chaos, the students actually get to connect with Korean heritage and learn to appreciate their roots. The film also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015.
Take the poll given below and choose your favorite film on Korean-Americans!