Recently, Lee Isaac Chung's film Minari was confirmed for a Golden Globe nomination in the foreign language film category. The film, however, will not be considered in the category of best picture. This nomination has quickly drawn outrage, especially among Asian Americans in the film industry who believe that Minari should be in the best picture category rather than the foreign language category.
The reasoning behind the categorization of Minari as a foreign language film is that much of the film is in Korean. However, in order to be considered a foreign language film per the criteria listed on the Golden Globes website, a film must have "at least 51% non-English dialogue track first released in their country of origin." While Minari does contain a large amount of Korean dialogue, its "country of origin" is still the United States. The treatment of Minari is similar to that of Lulu Wang's The Farewell last year -- The Farewell was an American film centering on a Chinese American family that ultimately ended up being placed in the foreign language film category due to the inclusion of dialogue in Mandarin.
The issue with placing these films in the foreign language category does not just lie in a technicality, however. Minari is a film following a Korean American family moving to Arkansas. The film is thoroughly Asian American and therefore thoroughly American. The inclusion of Korean dialogue does not minimize the fact that Minari is an American film centering on an American family, especially in a country that contains so many non-English-speaking or multilingual households -- if anything, the amount of Korean dialogue makes the film much more accurate to the experiences of many immigrants in the United States. When such a film is placed in the foreign language film category, which is made up almost entirely of actual foreign films, but not the best picture category, this placement implies a sort of foreign-ness around Asian American narratives -- especially when this film is not the first to be treated this way. The separation of Minari into the foreign language film category plays into the perpetual foreigner stereotype around Asian Americans.
The placement of a film that tells a quintessential American immigrant narrative into a "foreign" category essentially separates the Asian American narrative from other American films, leaving many Asian Americans to wonder why, exactly, their stories cannot be placed in the running with other American films. These narratives cannot simply be pushed aside -- films like Minari deserve recognition and deserve their placement among other great American films, regardless of how much of the dialogue is spoken in English.