After the premiere of "Minari" at the Sundance Film Festival, while many in the audience were still drying their eyes, director Lee Isaac Chung quoted the fauthor Willa Cather to explain how he had come to write a film based on his childhood, when his Korean family moved to rural Arkansas.
"Life began for me when I ceased to admire and began to remember."
Chung's memories, he said, started pouring out of him. A family drama began to form for the 41-year-old filmmaker about his upbringing in Arkansas. About his parent's struggle as immigrants in a strange new land. About his father's hard-fought attempts to start a small farm. About his tender but comic relationship with his grandmother.
"I wanted to shape the narrative to have different pockets of how this family might not make it, might not survive," Chung said in an interview the morning after the film's premiere in Park City. "Those were the tensions I was playing with. Each family member kind of has their turn, their shot at growth and maturation. It wasn't a traditional narrative of one hero but more: How do I make the whole family the hero?"
"Minari" has been an unquestionable high point to this year's Sundance, a breakout critical hit that with exquisite tenderness and simple beauty brings to life a classic immigrant tale and a compassionate family drama. The film, an American production with dialogue mostly in Korean, has some heavyweight backers. It was produced by Plan B Productions (Brad Pitt is an executive producer), and independent distributor A24 is releasing it later this year.
While low in budget, "Minari" is the kind of non-English film -- personal, authentic -- that might have once stood little chance of getting made. But independent filmmakers and labels like Neon and A24 have been pushing those boundaries, and movies like "The Farewell" and "Parasite" have proven there's a wide American audience for them.
Steven Yeun, the Korean-born actor who plays the father in "Minari," has been working to great acclaim on both sides of the Pacific. The "Walking Dead" actor won best supporting actor from numerous critics groups for 2018's exceptional Korean mystery drama "Burning." He was the first to sign on "Minari."
"Sometimes identity become a focal point of how to approach the other or a difference in how we see Americans," said Yeun, sitting alongside his director. "I've read many scripts about families of immigrants. A lot of the time, they're explanatory or they're catering to an audience that's not even of themselves. When it does that, it loses its authenticity and romanticizes in some ways, idealizes in other ways. When I read the script, I was like: This is unabashedly a truthful telling of these human beings."
Chung, who was born in Denver and whose four previous films include his Rwanda-set debut "Munyurangabo," specifically credited Plan B producer Christina Oh for wanting to keep "Minari" true to Chung's experience.
"She was always clear: Let's make this as Korean as possible," Chung said. "At the same time, it's a low-budget film so we were allowed to take a risk that I don't think big-budget films would have been allowed to."
Chung's parents were at the premiere of "Minari," as were Yeun's, making for a very emotional evening. Chung called it cathartic for him and his parents. "They feel like I understand what they went through," he said. "I've noticed a shift in the way we talk to each other."
Yeun described a similar journey in playing the father, Jacob.
"At times I warred with playing him in a cliche so we could cater to a larger message, or playing him a very specific, individual way. Obviously, the right choice is as an individual. But it was humbling to know I had to go through that journey to see my dad truly," Yeun said. "Sitting next to my dad, everyone was crying after the movie but as I was getting up, I just put my hand on him. And then it was over."
Ricky Martin's wide smile began to fade as the Puerto Rican superstar talked about his next album.
It's influenced by the U.S. territory's political turmoil as people struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria and a recent 6.4 magnitude earthquake that killed one person and destroyed hundreds of homes amid a 13-year recession.
"I'm going to use my music to carry the message of all those who aren't being heard," he told The Associated Press on Monday while preparing for a concert on his native island.
The 48-year-old father of four children joined in the big demonstrations last year that led Ricardo Rosselló to resign as the island's governor, and although he hasn't been at the most recent protests against current Gov. Wanda Vázquez, he has gone on social media urging her to step down.
"It would be an act of justice for our island," he said in a video Thursday. "There are no immediate legal mechanisms for you and your entire team to leave and pay for all our suffering. But I have good news. The elections come in November and I am certain, certain, that the people will rise up more than ever."
Martin's upcoming album is not the one he originally envisioned. He said he was going through a very romantic period in his life when he began recording, but all that changed when the 2019 protests in Puerto Rico erupted. The demonstrations were fed by anger over corruption and over the way the government responded to Hurricane Maria, the September 2017 storm that wreaked havoc on the island, killing an estimated 2,975 people in its aftermath.
Martin participated in the demonstrations alongside other artists and found a new idea for the album.
"When I returned to the studio, everything that I had done musically expired because I had poetic material in my head to share with the world after what happened in the streets of Puerto Rico," he said.
Martin said the album will be titled "Movimiento" and will contain 12 songs.
"In all of them, I will in some way express everything that I experienced," he said, alluding to the demonstrations. "All of the stories I heard from people who simply were not being heard."
One of the album's songs is the newly released single "Tiburones," which means "sharks" in Spanish. The video was shot in Puerto Rico and shows a woman face to face with police in riot gear. Around her neck is a green kerchief that Martin said was the actress' idea to wear and one he fully supports since it symbolizes the fight for a woman's right to have an abortion.
"What I've always wanted is a woman to have the right to do whatever she wants with her body," he said. "I'm always going to defend that."
Some have criticized Martin's involvement in the 2019 protests and his recent comments regarding the current government's response to the earthquake and strong aftershocks, accusing him of being an opportunist and of riling people up only to leave the island afterward. Others have posted online messages asking that he stay out of the island's affairs.
Martin remains unfazed.
"I shouldn't be interested in Puerto Rico because I don't live in Puerto Rico?" he asked. "To the contrary. I believe that not being on the island has made me appreciate my culture more, appreciate my people more, my language, my music, where I come from."
The brother of rapper Nicki Minaj was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison for sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl at his Long Island home.
A judge convicted Jelani Maraj of predatory sexual assault and child endangerment in November 2017. The victim testified during the trial that Maraj repeatedly raped her in 2015 while her mother was at work.
Prosecutors have said DNA evidence recovered from the girl's pajama pants was linked to Maraj. The girl's younger brother also testified at the trial that he witnessed one assault.
Maraj's attorney appealed conviction in 2018, claiming that there was jury misconduct. The judge ruled in October that the defense did not meet the necessary burden of proof.
Maraj said in court Monday that he had an alcohol problem and asked for a "second chance." One of his attorneys said he suffered from health issues including hypertension, gout and anemia and requested the minimum sentence of 10 years to life.
Maraj's appellate attorney, Stephen Scaring, said he plans to appeal the judge's decision.
Harvey Weinstein accuser Mimi Haleyi testified Monday that weeks after arriving in New York to work for one of his shows, she found herself fighting in vain as the once-revered showbiz honcho pushed her onto a bed and sexually assaulted her, undeterred by her kicks and pleas of, "no, please don't do this, I don't want it."
Haleyi was the first to testify of the two women whose allegations led to Weinstein's New York City criminal case. Sobbing at times, she described how the film producer turned a friendly meeting at his Manhattan apartment in June 2006 into a terrifying ordeal that had her contemplating escape plans as he forcibly performed oral sex on her.
"I was kicking, I was pushing, I was trying to get away from his grip," the former "Project Runway" production assistant testified. "He held me down and kept pushing me down to the bed. Every time I tried to get up he pushed me down."
Haleyi, now 42, told jurors she thought, "I'm being raped," and wondered "If I scream rape, will someone hear me?" She said she told Weinstein she was menstruating in an attempt to deter him, but that didn't stop him.
"I checked out and decided to endure it," she said. "That was the safest thing I could do."
Yet just two weeks later, Haleyi said, she was accepting an invitation to Weinstein's hotel room, where he pulled her into bed for sex.
Haleyi said she "just felt like an idiot" for letting Weinstein convince her to meet again, but thought seeing him could help her regain power as she tried to make sense of the alleged assault. Haleyi said she didn't want to be intimate with Weinstein, but said she didn't think Weinstein forced her to have sex.
Weinstein lawyer Damon Cheronis zeroed in on Haleyi's continued interactions with Weinstein, scrutinizing her emails and calendar entries marked "HW" during cross-examination. He noted that she kept exchanging warm messages with him, pitched him on a TV show and made several trips on his dime, including jetting off to Los Angeles the day after the alleged assault and flying to London about a month later.
When they couldn't connect before she left London, she sent Weinstein's assistant an email lamenting: "totally bummed to have missed you guys."
Explaining the fraught dynamics, Haleyi said she no longer feared Weinstein after "he basically had taken what he wanted" in the hotel room encounter and "wasn't pursuing me in that manner" any longer.
In what seemed designed to be an aha moment, Cheronis asked Haleyi if the reason she kept in touch with Weinstein was "because he never sexually assaulted you."
Haleyi pulled up the microphone, smiled exasperatedly and said: "No."
In all, six accusers are expected to testify, but because of the statute of limitations and other legal technicalities, Weinstein is charged in only two incidents.
They are the alleged rape of an aspiring actress in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and the alleged sexual assault of Haleyi. Under New York law applicable at the time, Weinstein is not being charged with rape in connection with Haleyi's accusations.
Weinstein, 67, has insisted any sexual encounters were consensual.
The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault, unless they agree to be named as Haleyi has.
Haleyi went public with her allegations at an October 2017 news conference, appearing in front of cameras alongside lawyer Gloria Allred, who also represents Sciorra and other Weinstein accusers.
Haleyi, born in Helsinki, Finland, and raised in Sweden, said she met Weinstein while in her 20s at the 2004 London premiere of the Leonardo DiCaprio film "The Aviator."
They crossed paths again in Cannes in 2006 and, when she expressed interest in working on one of his productions, he invited her to his hotel room and asked for a massage. She declined, saying she was "extremely humiliated."
More meetings followed, and Weinstein secured Haleyi a job helping on the set of "Project Runway," the reality competition show he produced. She testified that before the alleged assault, Weinstein showed up at her apartment and begged her to join him on a trip to Paris for a fashion show.
"At one point, because I just didn't know how to shut it down so to speak. ... So I said, 'You know you have a terrible reputation with women, I've heard,'" Haleyi testified.
She said that offended Weinstein and he stepped back and said, "What have you heard?"
Asked by prosecutor Meghan Hast if she had any romantic or sexual interest in Weinstein, Haleyi firmly answered: "Not at all, no."
Haleyi said she didn't call the police about the alleged assault because she was working in the U.S. on a tourist visa and was scared of Weinstein's power and connections, telling jurors: "I didn't think I'd stand a chance."
Weinstein was jotting notes in a thick yellow notebook through most of Haleyi's account, but looked at her and shook his head when she described their encounter. Weinstein has not been charged in connection with that incident.
The jury of seven men and five women heard last week from "Sopranos" actress Annabella Sciorra, who testified that Weinstein overpowered and raped her after barging into her apartment in the mid-1990s. While outside the statute of limitations for criminal charges, Sciorra's allegations could be a factor as prosecutors look to prove Weinstein has engaged in a pattern of predatory behavior.
Jurors also heard from Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist who said that most sex assault victims continue to have contact with their attackers, often under threat of retaliation if the victims tell anyone what happened.
On the stand Monday, Haleyi said she dealt with the alleged assaults by compartmentalizing, occasionally interacting with Weinstein on a professional basis bypassing along scripts from friends or discussing work opportunities.
"Honestly, I didn't know how to deal with it so it's almost like I put it away in a box, like it didn't happen and I just carried along as usual," Haleyi said.
The edgy, avant-pop album that siblings Billie Eilish and Finneas created in a small bedroom made a big splash at the 2020 Grammy Awards, winning 11 honors for the musical family.
"When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" — created in the musicians' Los Angeles home — helped Eilish win the top four honors, including album, song and record of the year, along with best new artist. The 18-year-old is the youngest artist to achieve the feat and the first to do so since Christopher Cross did in 1981.
Finneas — who co-wrote, produced and engineered the album, walked away as Sunday's top winner with six. Eilish won five honors.
"We didn't write a speech for this because we didn't make this album to win a Grammy. We didn't think it would win anything ever. We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy — whatever that means — and we stand up here confused and grateful," Finneas said onstage.
Together, they also won best pop vocal album, while Finneas' individual honors included producer of the year (non-classical) and best engineered album (non-classical).
"This is my first Grammys. I never thought this would happen in my whole life," Eilish said. "I genuinely wanna say I am so grateful and I only wanna say that I am so grateful."
"This is to all the kids who are making music in the bedroom today — you're going to get one of these," Finneas added.
The bedroom where they created magic was brought to life when they hit the stage and performed "When the Party's Over," which featured Finneas on keys and Eilish singing in a soft, pitch perfect tone.
Los Angeles, where the show was held, had a central theme at the show Sunday: hometown heroes Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant, a global icon, were honored and celebrated at the show.
The Grammys kicked off with a performance in honor of Bryant, who died hours before the awards along with his daughter and seven others. And later in the show Hussle's collaborators and friends, including DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG, gave an all-star tribute to the man who died last year.
Hussle also posthumously won his first pair of Grammys on Sunday.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay introduced the performance, which featured band players, background dancers and Legend wearing traditional Ethiopian and Eritrean clothing in honor of Hussle's African roots. Mill performed a new song called "Letter to Nipsey" while others joined together for "Higher," which won best rap/sung performance.
"This is for Nipsey Hussle. This is for hip-hop," said DJ Khaled, who collaborated on the song with Legend and Hussle, whose family stood onstage.
"We all love him. We all miss him. It's terrible that we had to lose him so early," Legend said. "We've seen some tragedy today and last year ... let's hold each other tight."
The show — which took place at the Staples Center, Bryant's old stomping ground — began with a touching, emotional and a cappella performance of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by host Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men.
"Los Angeles, America and the world-wide world lost a hero," Keys said, adding that the audience was "heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."
"Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna ... are in our spirits, they're in our hearts, they're in prayers, they're in this building," she said. "Take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families."
Before the show officially honored Bryant, Lizzo performed the songs "Truth Hurts" and "Cuz I Love You," saying at the top of the show: "Tonight is for Kobe."
Lizzo won three honors, including best pop solo performance for "Truth Hurts" and two R&B awards.
"Hold on one second," she said, catching her breath. "Thank you to the academy. This is really (expletive) sick."
Lizzo was among the mix of newcomers and well-known acts who reached their goals of winning their first-ever Grammy Awards on Sunday, which also included Tanya Tucker, J. Cole, DJ Khaled, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michelle Obama, Sara Bareilles, Rosalía, 21 Savage and Tyler, the Creator.
"To my mother, you did a great job raising this guy," Tyler, who won best rap album, said to his mom, who was onstage and crying by side.
More crying took place Sunday.
Demi Lovato, who has mostly taken a break from the public since focusing on her recovery after reportedly overdosing in July 2018, gave a stirring, vocally top-notch performance that earned her a standing ovation. She was so emotional that she had to restart the song as a teardrop ran down her cheek.
Camila Cabello's performance of "First Man" — a song dedicated to her father — also induced tears. Cabello walked off the stage to her dad's seat to finish singing the song in front of him, while he teared up. Audience members were emotional, too, including Gwen Stefani.
Ariana Grande had a lengthy performance — probably to make up for the drama that surrounded her axed performance last year. Run DMC joined forces with Aerosmith to rock the Grammys stage, while Usher, Sheila E. and FKA twigs paid tribute to Prince.
Lil Nas X brought the story of "Old Town Road" to life by performing alongside the artists who helped the song stay at No. 1 for 19 weeks through various remixes, including BTS, Mason Ramsey, Diplo and the track's main co-star, Billy Ray Cyrus.
Veteran rapper Nas then joined Lil Nas X for a new song, shouting out Bryant at the end: "Kobe, we love you."
A dark cloud loomed over ceremony since the Recording Academy announced it had put its recently hired CEO, Deborah Dugan, on administrative leave for misconduct. Dugan and her lawyers fired back at the academy, claiming that the awards show is rigged.
But no mention of Dugan was directly made during the three-plus-hour show.