“In her first-ever American feature film, ‘Minari,’ Yuh-Jung Youn wonderfully portrays a feisty and foul-mouthed grandmother whose Korean American family has suddenly moved from California to a hardscrabble farm in Arkansas. Hers is a performance that crosses culture and language, one that fully reveals the skills of her long, brilliant career,” said Festival Chairman Harold Matzner. “It is our honor to present the Spotlight Award, Actress to Yuh-Jung Youn.”
Youn joins this year’s previously announced honorees Riz Ahmed (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actor), Viola Davis (Desert Palm Achievement Award, Actress), Andra Day (Breakthrough Performance Award), Anthony Hopkins (Career Achievement Award), Daniel Kaluuya (International Star Award, Actor), Carey Mulligan (International Star Award, Actress), Leslie Odom, Jr. (Spotlight Award, Actor), Gary Oldman (Chairman’s Award), Chloé Zhao (Director of the Year Award) and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Vanguard Award).
The festival and film awards gala will not take place as an in-person event this year, but honoree selections will be announced to recognize this year’s great performances and Entertainment Tonight will air a tribute to the honorees scheduled on Feb. 11 and Feb. 25.
Filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung’s “Minari” tells a tender and funny story of how a Korean American family risks everything to plant dreams for the next stage of their lives. Named for a peppery Korean herb, “Minari” spotlights patriarch Jacob (Steven Yeun), who moves his family from California to a farm in Arkansas in search of the American Dream. As the family navigates the changes brought on by the Ozarks, the film centers on the relationship between the unruly 7-year-old David (Alan Kim) and loving, yet unconventional, grandmother Soonja (Youn). Youn also received best supporting actress nominations at the SAG Awards and Critics Choice Awards for her performance.
Revered by audiences around the world, Youn has starred in many of Korea’s most-loved films and television series in a career that spans more than five decades. After becoming a star in her first film, “Woman of Fire,” in 1971, she has taken on memorable roles in over 80 television series and close to 30 feature films, winning countless awards. Recently, her reality television show, “Youn’s Kitchen,” became one of Korea’s highest rated shows and revitalized her popularity among a new generation of Korean audiences. She received international acclaim for her appearances at the Cannes Film Festival for “The Housemaid” and “The Taste of Money” and starred in her first American, English-language series as Minjung in the Netflix drama “Sense8.”
Past recipients of the Spotlight Award include Jennifer Lopez, Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, Helen Hunt, Allison Janney, Rooney Mara and Julia Roberts, all six of whom received Academy Award nominations in the year they were honored, with Janney winning an Oscar for best supporting actress.