In 2018, a decade after MUNYURANGABO, his first feature film debuted as an Official Selection at Cannes, Lee Isaac Chung was close to trading in the unpredictable life of an independent filmmaker for a more stable career as a film professor. Yet, before he put the camera and clapboard into storage, he felt he had one last script to write. This famously became MINARI, a coming-of-age story inspired by Chung’s experiences growing up the son of Korean-American immigrants in rural Arkansas during the 1980s.
The film and its performances drew great acclaim at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the grand jury and audience awards, as well as six Oscar® nominations including best picture, director, original screenplay, score and acting nods for Steven Yeun, and for Yuh-Jung Youn, who’d go on top capture the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. It also marked the first time in the Oscars 92-year history that South Korean performers were nominated for acting awards.
On November 9, Film Movement celebrates the career of this visionary director with THE EARLY FILMS OF LEE ISAAC CHUNG. The slipcased DVD collection showcases a trio of compelling dramas, including his feature film debut, MUNYURANGABO, an Un Certain Regard Official Selection at Cannes and winner of the Grand Jury Award at AFI Fest.
After stealing a machete from a market in Kigali, Munyurangabo and his friend, Sangwa, leave the city on a journey tied to their pasts. Munyurangabo wants justice for his parents who were killed in the Rwandan genocide, and Sangwa wants to visit the home he deserted years ago. Their friendship, however, is tested when Sangwa’s parents disapprove of Munyurangabo, warning that “Hutus and Tutsis are supposed to be enemies.” Chung’s acclaimed debut feature was filmed in 2006 as a project for a class of fifteen Rwandan film students which utilized local street kids and at-risk youths as the cast and crew of the production.
- Audio Commentary by director Lee Isaac Chung
- Behind-the-Scenes Footage
LUCKY LIFE (2010)
Inspired by the poetry of Gerald Stern, in this Official Selection at Tribeca, a group of friends travels to the beach in hopes of encouraging Jason (Kenyon Adams), who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The journey is rooted in nostalgia and the desire for a meaningful farewell, although the friends avoid discussing Jason’s illness. Some time later, as Mark (Daniel O’Keefe) and Karen (Megan McKenna) plan to have a child, the beach trip lingers as a haunting memory.
ABIGAIL HARM (2012)
Abigail Harm reads books to the blind and lives alone on the outskirts of the city. Keeping her eyes turned away from everyone, she secretly watches, listens and hopes. One day, Abigail recalls an old story about a woodcutter who saves the life of a mystical deer and is granted his wish for a companion. Before long, this tale seems to come alive in Abigail’s own lonely world when a strange visitor mysteriously appears in her apartment.
Inspired by the Korean fable “The Woodcutter and the Nymph,” ABIGAIL HARM, which captured the Best Film and Best Director Awards at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, is a daring and surreal modern-day fairy tale from acclaimed director Lee Isaac Chung, featuring a mesmerizing lead performance by Amanda Plummer.
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