The film was ineligible to compete in either of the HFPA's Best Picture categories.
When the camera cut to director Lee Isaac Chung for his acceptance speech, his young daughter adorably launched herself on him and hugged him while exclaiming, "I prayed! I prayed!" Chung thanked her in return, saying, "She's the reason I made this film."
“Minari is about a family. It's about a family trying to learn how to speak a language of its own," he said. "It goes deeper than any American language and any foreign language -- it’s a language of the heart... I hope we'll all learn how to speak this language of love to each other, especially this year."
The semi-autobiographical film tells the story of a Korean-American family as they settle on an Arkansas farm in the '80s in search of the American Dream. The cast includes Steven Yeun, Yeri Han and newcomers Noel Cho and Alan S. Kim, with Youn Yuh-Jung as the foul-mouthed, wrestling-loving grandmother.
Kim excitedly reacted to the win in photos he shared on Instagram:
The win comes following controversy over the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's eligibility rules, which barred the USA-produced Minari from inclusion in the Best Picture fields because more than 50 percent of the dialogue is in a language other than English. (Yeun and Youn, meanwhile, were snubbed in the acting categories.)
It's a fate that befell The Farewell last year, prompting director Lulu Wang to tweet, "I have not seen a more American film than #Minari this year... We really need to change these antiquated rules that characterizes American as only English-speaking."
ET spoke with Minari's cast and director ahead of the film's release, at which point Chung said the controversy made for a "bittersweet" entrée into awards season.
"For me, what's bittersweet is just hearing other people recounting the ways in which they felt like foreigners in this place," he said. "And I know that feeling too well. I feel like I've heard a lot of people feeling hurt, my friends and stuff, but at the same time we just focus on the film itself and what this story is about. It's about a family that is not letting anyone define who they are -- they're going about their lives and defining themselves and really trying to stake out who they are on this land -- and that's what we hope for the film itself, that [despite] these external definitions and stuff placed upon it, in the end, it's just a story about human beings."
"I feel very proud to have been part of something like this, that I got to make this with these people and that as it gets out into the world, too, it challenges these notions," Yeun added. "You can't rely on rules and institutions to capture how reality actually is -- it's often slow to come to these things -- and I'm glad to be part of something that pokes at those things."