Being able to champion films that have resonated with us is one of the greatest joys of working in film criticism, and a lot of love and thought has gone into creating a magazine that feels as special and intimate as this semi-autobiographical film about Lee Isaac Chung’s childhood growing up on a farm in rural Arkansas.
You might not recognise the cover star of the newest issue of LWLies. It is the young actor Alan S Kim, knee-high star of the upcoming film, Minari, to which we dedicate this edition of the magazine. Minari is written and directed by the Korean-American filmmaker Lee Isaac Chung, and its story – of Korean immigrant family finding their way in the US south – is rooted in personal biography. Kim plays David, a formative version of Chung – a sharp-tongued whippersnapper who exists in a state of semi-limbo due to an unfortunate heart defect which essentially prevents him from having fun. The film is largely delivered from his naive viewpoint.
David’s father, Jacob (Steven Yeun), is fixated on the idea of starting a farm and becoming one of Arkansas’ key suppliers of Asian crops, but his dream meets heavy resistance from both the members of his family and the elements at large. Kambole Campbell writes movingly on the film in our new issue, while Hannah Woodhead talks to Chung, Yeun and Kim about how the film tenderly reflects the immigrant experience in the USA.
The design route of this issue is inspired by a scene in the film in which David and his older sister use crayons and pencils to design paper aeroplanes and then fly them into the living room to stop their parents from fighting. We wanted the pages to exude a sense of childlike wonder, and this idea is perhaps exemplified in Amy Moss’ vibrant, pencil-drawn cover illustration of Alan which has presented as a framed family portrait.
His image has been wreathed in the unwieldy plants that plunge their roots into the ground, hatch and then thrive on an often-unforgiving landscape (Minari, as you’ll learn from watching the film, is one such metaphorically-rich shrub).
While the design channels a sense of youthful ebullience, the stories inside the issue look at questions of how diasporas are represented in film, the historical representation of Asian-Americans in mainstream Hollywood, and also an important discussion on diversity and opportunity within the space of film criticism, focusing specifically on Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology. Full details of the issue, which includes some amazing interviews with the likes of LaKeith Stanfield, Katherine Waterston and Christian Petzold, can be read here.
For those who would use the occasion of a fresh new LWLies as an excuse to wander down to the local shops, we ask that you hold fire on that front for a little longer, and consider instead visiting our digital shop. We’ll update you with our distribution plans as and when wider announcements are made, but copies will be available in WHSmiths and select supermarkets until trading restrictions are lifted, so to avoid disappointment, our webshop is here for your movie magazine needs.
This is the fifth issue we’ve produced in lockdown, and we’re still longing for the day when we can safely return to cinemas. Hopefully, that isn’t too far away, but in the meantime, it’s a privilege to celebrate films like Minari, which have so much love and life in every frame.
Also in this Issue: Kambole Campbell delves into Lee Isaac Chung’s sun-bleached cine-memoir; Leila Latif and David Jenkins offer an alphabetical tour of immigrant communities on film; Leila Latif discusses the complexities of Judas and the Black Messiah with LaKeith Stanfield, one of the most exciting acting talents around.