More than 20 million people from different countries and backgrounds tune into The Academy Awards each year.
But in over nine decades of award shows, there have only been 11 foreign films nominated for best picture at The Oscars. And the cinematic honor has never been awarded to any movie made outside of the U.S.
That all changed this year.
On Feb. 9, Bong Joon Ho’s dark-comedy thriller, “Parasite” made history as the first international film to win the coveted Best Picture award. On top of this unexpected win, the film won awards for Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film and Best Director, making it the most decorated film of the night. The film is the first South Korean movie to ever be nominated at the Academy Awards and there’s no telling what changes this could make for the U.S. film industry and the recognition of international film on a global scale.
People all over the world are celebrating the huge success for both Korea and the film industry. And even at UB, professors, students and administrators alike can’t stop talking about how exciting this triumph is.
“The Korean film industry had a very small beginning and thus the Korean audience was exposed to various films from around the world,” said linguistics and Korean studies professor Hyein Amber Kim. “While there is a screen quota system for domestic films in Korea, it wasn’t unusual for me [while living in Korea] to watch Indian, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, and other international films in movie theaters.”
The film industry in the U.S. has a tendency to be exclusionary and barely promote any film not produced in Hollywood. Seeing a global film in a mainstream theater is uncommon, but an internationally recognized cinematic success like “Parasite” is the perfect catalyst to insight a positive change in film diversity.
Students across campus, including members from UB’s Korean Student’s Association (KSA), found the “Parasite” win exciting.
Junior business major Inha Jung said she has always loved film and because of this, she was inspired by the number of people who also fell in love with “Parasite” and its social message.
“Most people say Korea is a good country to live in if you have a lot of money,” Jung said. “Many said [Parasite] was funny since there are a lot of jokes, but it is still uncomfortable to see the comparison of how people are treated differently. I am very proud to be Korean and see that more and more people are knowing more about our country.”
Many people attributed the success of the film to the powerful and shocking narrative Joon Ho put to the screen.
Initially, “Parasite” follows an amusing story of a poor South Korean family, The Kims, as they all slowly secure job positions working in the house of an upper-class family, The Parks, by lying, cheating and just plain playing dirty. But halfway through the film, the plot suddenly changes to reveal something much darker creeping underneath the floorboards of society today that many people of all backgrounds choose to forget about.
Liz Park, curator of exhibitions for the UB art galleries, said much of the fascination associated with the film can be attributed to the approachable depth that the characters and story convey.
“The Park family was as much a parasite as the Kim family was,” Park said. “I think there’s truth to that. Who feeds off of who? I think it’s a matter of perspective and who the storyteller is. The brilliance of the movie is that there were [so] many intertwining stories.”
After its Best Picture win at the Oscars, there’s no telling what other changes will come to both film and perspective within the U.S.
UB community members say the film has shown them that the issues they face may not be that different from someone on the other side of the world.
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