I first heard about director Lee Isaac Chung, the writer and director of Minari, as his first feature film Munyurangabo was playing in film festivals in 2009.

The movie had been discovered by my friend Darren Hughes, and Darren was raving about it in writing. Hughes is a brilliant film critic whose inspiring work has led me to many of my favorite films. His outstanding interview with Chung appeared in Sojourners, but that is now, alas, only available to subscribers. But I’m happy to say it’s also archived here — on Hughes’ website Long Pauses — and available to all.

I was so impressed with Munyurangabo when I finally saw it that I reviewed it more than once, screened it at The Glen Workshop, surprised the Glen Workshoppers with a Skype visit from the filmmaker himself, and now I’ve made it a standard part of the “Film & Faith” class I teach at Seattle Pacific University.

You can read my original review of Munyurangabo for Response, the magazine published by Seattle Pacific University, here. It was a review meant for readers who might be adventurous enough to try watching something more challenging than the typical Friday-night movie, and it includes excerpts from my own first interview with Chung.

I also wrote about the film for Image, a more contemplative, image-focused essay. That original publication has receded into the Internet Archive, so I re-published it here at Looking Closer. That, too, has excerpts from the interview.

That first interview was epic, and I’ll re-publish that for you tomorrow, on Day Four of Lee Isaac Chung week… along with a brand-new surprise.

Then, in 2013, came the film Lucky Lifewhich even fewer people have seen. Hopefully the success of Minari will change that.

Lucky Life is a startling follow-up to Munyurangabo — startling in its confidence, its quality of lived experience, and in how it bears little to no resemblance to Munyurangabo. It’s a delicate meditation on memory, friendship, marriage, faith, and death that feels inspired by Terrence Malick and yet it was released before The Tree of Life and To the Wonder, the two Malick films it most resembles. I think it’s one of the great undiscovered masterworks of poetic American cinema.

I reviewed Lucky Life for Image‘s blog Good Letters.

And you can rent Lucky Life for only $1.99 on Vimeo. I hope you will. Even better — just buy it for a few dollars more.

Lucky Life (2009) from Sgraffito Entertainment Inc. on Vimeo.

Two more films by Lee Isaac Chung — Abigail Harm, starring Amanda Plummer, and I Have Seen My Last Born, a documentary that brought the filmmaker and his collaborator Sam Anderson back to Rwanda — are also available on Vimeo. Somehow, I’ve never published a review of either one. That’s about to change. Stay tuned.