Bong Joon Ho, ‘Parasite’ Make Global Cinematic History with Game-Changing Oscars Wins

Yes, Bong Joon Ho! You can have your drink now!

Parasite today, made cinematic history after sweeping major category wins at the 2020 Academy Awards, that ultimately got attendees at the Dolby Theater and the rest of the world leaping to their feet–celebrating unprecedented victories in the Academy’s 92-year history.

The film has since created Oscars buzz after it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was awarded the Palme d’Or for its gritty and unapologetic showcase of class divide and power struggle between the rich and the poor. After it gained ground in international awards circuit, the film went on to collect universal praise as it was shown globally. As of this writing, Parasite‘s total box-office earnings stands at $165 M.

The Kim Family (Woo-sik Choi, Kang-ho Song, Hye-jin Jang, So-dam Park) in Parasite. | Courtesy of NEON + CJ Entertainment

Coming in to tonight’s Academy Awards, everyone expected a Best International Feature Film finish for Parasite–an instant shoo-in for the category following the film’s slew of international acclaim, not to mention historic wins in other major awards shows, including the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and even the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards. But the game-changing black comedy thriller has made even greater news after being called on major categories at the world’s most esteemed award-giving body.

Parasite collected four out of its six nods at this year’s Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay that Bong Joon Ho won alongside screenwriter, Han Jin Won. The film then took home the trophy for Best International Feature Film, which honestly had the film’s title engraved on it the minute the nominations were announced. Interestingly, Parasite serves as the first recipient of the award after it was renamed from Best Foreign Language Film this year.

But among the biggest surprises of the evening was the 50-year-old director besting Hollywood greats in the Best in Directing category. The South Korean auteur nabbed the award from Netflix-backed Martin Scorsese, war-epic director Sam Mendes, billion-dollar franchise director, Todd Phillips, and resident Hollywood filmmaking rebel, Quentin Tarantino. Boong Joon Ho, went on to accept the Best Picture award as one of the producers of the film by the end of the evening–a first for an Asian film, or any foreign language film for that matter.

In receiving the award for Best in Directing, Bong Joon Ho said, “After winning best international feature, I thought I was done for the day and was ready to relax. Thank you so much.”

He then went on to thank fellow nominees in the category, “When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is that ‘the most personal is the most creative.’ That quote is from our great Martin Scorsese. When I was in school, I studied Martin Scorsese’s films. Just to be nominated was a huge honor. I never thought I would win.”

He adds before letting out a joke, “When people in the U.S. were not familiar with my films, Quentin always put my films on his list. He’s here, thank you so much. Quentin, I love you. And Todd and Sam, great directors that I admire. If the Academy allows, I would like to get a Texas chainsaw, split the award into five and share it with all of you.”

Bong Joon Ho and Song Kang Ho on the set of Parasite. | Photo via NEON.

So, what does this win really mean? The Oscars has not exactly been free from controversy over issues on inclusivity and diversity. In 2015 and 2016, the awards show has been accused of being too “white”, prompting the Academy to not only reassess its regard of minority actors, but also to increase their number of voters who are people of color.

This year, protests on female directors like Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Lulu Wang (The Farewell), getting snubbed of the Best Director nods while coming out with critically-acclaimed films, got the ire of the community over the testosterone-heavy line-up of Best Director nominees. It should also be noted that Parasite, while getting nominated in major categories and emerging triumphant in most of it, did not receive a single acting nomination at the Oscars. A pattern that can be seen in other Asian nominated films in the past.

While the Academy’s preexisting biases and perceived prejudices on race and gender still persist to this day, the magnitude of Parasite‘s historic victory can, and should be felt among the minorities–a step into the right direction that would slowly open doors to the undermined segments of world cinema that have not been given equal footing on the competitive world stage.