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Lee Isaac Chung (born October 19, 1978) is a Korean American film director and screenwriter. His debut feature Munyurangabo (2007) was an Official Selection at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. The first narrative feature film in the Kinyarwanda language,[2] the film was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Busan International Film Festival. American critic Roger Ebert calls it "in every frame a beautiful and powerful film — a masterpiece." [3] For the film, Chung was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award and the Breakthrough Director Award at the Gotham Awards.[4] He also directed the feature films Lucky Life (2010) and Abigail Harm (2012).

Lee Isaac Chung
Lee Isaac Chung

(1978-10-19) October 19, 1978 (age 40)
Alma materYale University
University of Utah
OccupationFilm director, screenwriter, producer
Years active2007 - Present
Korean name
Revised RomanizationJeong Isak
McCune–ReischauerChŏng Isak



Lee Isaac Chung was born October 19, 1978 in Denver, Colorado and grew up on a small farm in a rural town Lincoln, Arkansas. His family comes from South Korea. He attended Yale University to study Biology. At Yale, with exposure to world cinema in his senior year, he dropped his plans for medical school to pursue filmmaking.

His directorial debut, the Rwanda-set Munyurangabo, premiered at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (Official Selection: Un Certain Regard) to great acclaims. A collaboration with students at an international relief base in Kigali and an intimate story about the friendship between two boys in the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide, the film has played as an official selection at top film festivals worldwide, including the Busan International Film Festival, the Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlin International Film Festival, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Roger Ebert's Ebertfest, and AFI Fest in Hollywood, where it won the festival's Grand Prize. It was an official selection of the New Directors/New Films Festival at New York's Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art. For the film, Chung was an nominee at the Independent Spirit Awards ("Someone to Watch," 2008) and the Gotham Awards.

Roger Ebert calls Munyurangabo "in every frame a beautiful and powerful film — a masterpiece.".[3] In his 2007 Cannes Film Festival review, Variety critic Robert Koehler describes it as "by several light years -- the finest and truest film yet on the moral and emotional repercussions of the 15-year-old genocide that wracked Rwanda." [5] Writing in Film Comment, the late critic Robin Wood similarly described the film as "a masterpiece" and "an authentically beautiful film." [6]

According to the New York Times, prior to the making of Munyurangabo, director Lee Isaac Chung’s wife Valerie, an art therapist, had traveled to Rwanda as a volunteer to work with those affected by the 1994 genocide. At her urging, Chung accompanied her to Rwanda and volunteered to teach a filmmaking class at a relief base in Kigali in the summer of 2006. Sensing an opportunity to present the contemporary reality of Rwanda and to provide his students with practical film training, Chung arrived with a nine-page outline which he had written with the help of old friend (and the film's eventual co-producer and co-writer) Samuel Gray Anderson. Chung shot Munyurangabo over 11 days, working with a team of nonprofessional actors Chung found through local orphanages and his students as crew members.[7]

Chung's second film, Lucky Life (2010), was developed with the support of Kodak Film and the Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival. Inspired by the poetry of Gerald Stern, the film premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City and has screened at festivals worldwide.

Chung's third film, Abigail Harm (2012), is based on the Korean folktale "The Woodcutter and the Nymph". It stars Amanda Plummer, Will Patton, and Burt Young. The film was shot in New York City and was an official selection at the Busan International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, San Diego Asian Film Festival, CAAMFest, and winner of the Grand Prize and Best Director at Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival

In addition to filmmaking, Lee Isaac Chung mentors young Rwandan filmmakers through Almond Tree Rwanda, the Rwandan outpost for his U.S.-based production company, Almond Tree Films. Almond Tree Rwanda has produced several highly regarded shorts that have traveled to international festivals.[8]



  • 2007 Munyurangabo - Director, Producer, Co-Writer, Cinematographer, Editor
  • 2010 Lucky Life - Director, Producer, Co-Writer, Editor
  • 2012 Abigail Harm- Director, Co-Writer, Editor, Cinematographer
  • 2020 Minari - Director, Writer, Producer

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "한인 2세 정이삭 감독 칸 영화제 지원작품에". Korea Times. April 1, 2008. Retrieved October 26, 2015.
  2. ^ Variety May 25, 2007
  3. ^ a b Chicago Sun Times July 22, 2009
  4. ^ The Envelope
  5. ^ Variety May 27, 2007
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ United States Artists Official Website