Minari and the Golden Globes Controversy

In case you didn’t know, there were recently some updates regarding the Golden Globes’ categories and the films which will be competing for nominations in each category. The headline this time around has been the criticism which stemmed from the jury’s decision to make the film Minari ineligible for either of the two Best Picture awards, and instead limiting it to the Best Foreign Picture only. This has been met with plenty of outcries, especially given that Parasite’s wins at the Academy Awards earlier in 2020, we were all expecting more diversity with regard to the geographic spread of official selections for the mainstream awards.

The Language Issue

The main characteristic which saw Minari’s exclusion from the Best Picture brackets was the fact that it is mostly spoken in Korean. Now, this seems a bit inconsistent with some previous nominations and wins as many pointed out. Quentin Tarantino’ Inglorious Basterds was nominated for Best Picture despite it being mostly spoken in French and German, while Alejandro González Iñárritu’s use of multiple non-English languages didn’t stop his excellent Babel from winning Best Picture at the 2007 Golden Globes. So, it feels a bit unfair for Minari – is it because of its lack of Hollywood A-listers, which the previously mentioned films certainly had?

And as a lot of people pointed out, Minari is an American film. It is directed by an American director (of Korean origin), it is set in Arkansas, and shot in the US. It’s a story that revolves around Korean immigrants adapting to life in the US, and thus touches a very relevant facet of American society. And still, it cannot compete for the Best Picture award, due to its fidelity to the language which its characters should speak.

The Geography Issue

Although the fact that Minari is an American movie has been the most mentioned talking point with regard to the controversy, I personally don’t think it’s the most important one. If you have been reading my articles for the past couple of years, you will know that I often defended the Golden Globes for making much better nominations and selecting worthier winners in the past decade than the BAFTAs or the Oscars (apart from last year). However, I will definitely give criticism where criticism is due: excluding Minari due to its Korean language is a terrible decision.

First of all: Foreign Language Film – foreign to whom? As an international film award that has a very international jury, why do only American, British, Australian and co films get the honour of competing for the biggest prize? Is it not the point of an award ceremony to recognise the very best films from around the world, wherever they are coming from? The mere fact that the award takes place in the US doesn’t give it monopoly over the language – Cannes takes place in France, but French movies receive no preferential treatment.

For me, the retort should not be the fact that Minari is an American film. For me, the most important point is that Minari is a great film, which deserves just as much to be in the running for the Best Picture award as its American or British counterparts. And it’s not just Minari – it’s many other films from around the world, not getting the recognition they deserve because they are not spoken in English, and they do not present the opportunity for Hollywood to reinforce itself with pats on the back and profitable future contracts.

The Academy Awards seem to have understood this by renaming the Foreign Language category into Best Film Not in the English Language, and by making all-Korean film Parasite and Bong Joon-ho their big winners this year. I hope that it was not just an isolated case, but a sign for things to come. And while the emphasis seems to be on inclusiveness with regard to race and colour, I think even more important is to expand the geographic scope, and focus on filmmaking from around the world, not just one country’s case study in cinematography.



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