‘Parasite’ Breaks New Ground at Oscars


Photo Courtesy of Kinocine Park Jeah-wan through Wikimedia Commons

The cast of “Parasite,” including Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik and others walked the red carpets at film festivals around the world but remarked that the Academy Awards was one of their most significant and memorable experiences.

Shawyan Rooein, Ki Joon Lee, and Julia Kim

South Korean film “Parasite” took home four Oscars: Best Picture, Directing, International Film and Original Screenplay at the 92nd Academy Awards held on Feb. 9, opening a new chapter for international cinema in Hollywood.

“Parasite” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, followed by its release in South Korea’s theatres in May. From the Cannes Film Festival, “Parasite” received the highest prize: the Palme d’Or. Since entering the United States in October, the movie has made $35 million in the United States alone and $165 million worldwide, according to Business Insider.

But the film’s success stretches quite further than its financial successes.

“My previous film, ‘Okja,’ was a co-production between Korea and the U.S., but ‘Parasite,’ which is a purely Korean film, has garnered more enthusiasm from audiences all over the world, making me think that perhaps the deeper I delve into things that are around me, the broader the story can become and appeal to an international audience,” director Bong Joon-ho said during a backstage interview after the Oscars with Variety.

Viewers have criticized the Oscars’ voting committee for tending to vote for colleagues rather than seriously evaluating nominated motion pictures. In fact, according to Business Insider, 71% of best picture winners are directors or cast members who have previously been nominated or won an Oscar.

The success of “Parasite” signals an awaited change in Hollywood. While it is difficult to break through Hollywood’s glass ceiling as a non-English film directed and acted by a completely international cast, Bong’s win indicates that Hollywood is no longer, as the New York Times phrases, “an elite and selective voting body.”

Over the past few years, Asian-American representation in Hollywood has increased but is still underrepresented; in fact, a study in 2016 by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism showed Asian-Americans represent only one percent of all leading roles.

With numerous breakthroughs for entertainers like Awkwafina and continuing success of actresses like Sandra Oh, it is safe to say that Bong has joined a movement working to increase Asian-American representation.

“I think [Parasite] is one of the rare cases we can use the word ‘original.’ How director and writer Bong Joon-ho blends different genres together, I think he’s a master of the craft,” science teacher Michael Tang said. “We’re seeing more Asians break through in Hollywood. It was very meaningful that the first non-English film to win was from Asia.”

Bong, who sat next to movie directors he had looked up to his entire life, illustrates the very message of the cliche phrase: “work hard, dream big.”

“I’ve seen Scorsese lose this award multiple times, and he didn’t know me back then, but I was so frustrated. I remember when he won for “The Departed,” I was so excited,” Bong said during a backstage interview after the Oscars. “So to be nominated with him has been a huge honor, and it’s hard to believe.”

“Parasite” and its huge success now serve as symbols to all aspiring filmmakers.

“It was a very significant moment for me in my life as a Korean-American filmmaker. Korean cinema has never been recognized in the Academy ever. For us to be recognized not only as the best international film but also as the best picture of the entire year, it was a proud moment,” senior Daniel Han said. “The fact that ‘Parasite’ tried to recognize a social on-going problem and tried to address that through clever and keen storytelling is what made ‘Parasite’ have a step over the other films.”