During Sunday night’s 92nd annual Academy Awards, history was made by Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho and his film “Parasite.” The drama took home the awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best International Feature, and the biggest honor of the night, Best Picture. “Parasite” is the first foreign language feature ever to take home this particular award.
Like others, I thought this film would sweep at this year’s Oscars. It had already won high honors at the SAG, BAFTA, and the Golden Globes awards in the weeks prior to the Oscars. When the film was released in theaters on October 5, 2019, it already had lots of buzz surrounding it because of its worldwide premiere at The Cannes Film Festival, where it opened to critical acclaim and rave reviews from attendees.
The film even has a 100% certified rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is quite rare for any film. The movie follows the Kims, a poor family living day-to-day by doing odd jobs and the Parks, a rich family that is the heir to a large tech empire. When the son of the Kim family gets a job tutoring for Park’s daughter, he ends up getting jobs for everyone in his family.
I won’t spoil the whole film, because it’s a film everyone should experience. When I first saw “Parasite,” my mind was blown by it. From its intricate plot to its gorgeous cinematography to its rich score, the film is a marvel and like something I had never seen before in the cinema. The movie takes on the issue of classism headfirst with its use of creative storytelling and interesting editing choices.
One element of “Parasite” that has resulted in challenges for filmgoers in the United States is its use of subtitles and the film being fully in Korean. As someone who experienced the film in theaters, the film’s plot was easy to understand, even in Korean with subtitles. Viewers didn’t seem to mind the subtitles and used the subtitles and the visuals to understand the film’s plot. The imagery is helpful to understand the narrative.
But the language barrier led many people not to see the film. Even my own dad was hesitant. He went with me to see the film in theaters because I couldn’t see a rated R movie by myself since I’m only 14. He was skeptical because the whole film is in Korean and he didn’t want to read the subtitles. But, he ended up enjoying the film and has since rewatched it many times.
This same barrier has resulted in other film fans from seeing “Parasite.” One voting Academy member, even told the industry trade publication The Hollywood Reporter anonymously, “I don’t think foreign films should be nominated with the regular films.”
But Bong Joon Ho and his film broke down these barriers on Sunday, taking home Best Picture and being the first foreign film to do so. Not only did this film break down language barriers, it showed how a film featuring a cast and crew of color could score high, especially being surrounded by nominated films that featured zero cast and crew of color. “Parasite” was a huge win for the Asian and Asian American community in another year where Oscar nominations caused a lot of controversy for its lack of nominees of color and female directing nominees. While many categories were dominated by white men, “Parasite” and Bong Joon Ho came and swept this year’s awards, proving that barriers can be broken and an Asian cast and crew could win big.
Hopefully, when the 2020 Oscar nominations come in, the film industry will remember the lessons from “Parasite” and truly embrace all types of creative, groundbreaking films.
Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to watch “Parasite.” While the film is no longer playing in many large theater chains, it is now on DVD and available on streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Vudu. I highly recommend this film because of its compelling plot about issues that lower class families face, an issue that is expertly explored. This film is a must see for everyone.
Jennie Matos, 14, attends The Lovett School and loves to write about her experiences and her love for film.