South Korean distributor Pancinema has set a March release for “Minari,” the acclaimed Korean-language film by Lee Isaac Chung. The film follows a Korean family in the 1980s as they move to a farm in rural Alabama.
Controversially, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association put the American-made picture in the foreign film category for the Golden Globes, rekindling debate about diversity and identity in the U.S.
The on-screen language is unlikely to be a problem for Korean audiences and Pancinema this week began its marketing campaign for the film with a Korean-language poster that teased only the month of release.
Determining the final release date in Korea is likely to reflect two things: how the coronavirus conditions are affecting film distribution in South Korea, where a third wave of infections has all but closed most cinemas; and how far “Minari” gets in the Oscars race.
The film debuted a year ago at Sundance. It had further festival play in the fall of 2020, including online screenings at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October and in front of a live audience at Korea’s Busan festival.
North American distributor A24 gave it an awards-qualifying limited release in December 2020 and now plans an expanded outing from Feb. 12, 2021. Both the film and Chung are strongly tipped to receive acknowledgement when the Academy Awards nominations are announced on March 15. Similarly, leading man Steven Yeun is a strong contender for a best actor nomination.
In pre-virus years, South Korea was the world’s fourth largest theatrical market, buoyed by a high per capita attendance rate. And it is a market where audiences respond strongly to top acting performances.
However, national and regional authorities have struggled to keep a lid on the third wave of the virus, causing recent cinema attendance to crash to an unprecedented low. The country announced 513 more COVID-19 cases on Friday, lifting the running total to 71,241, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.