by Julia Pierrepont III
After winning the Palme D’Or, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe, two British Academy of Film and Television Awards, a Writer’s Guild of America Award and an American Cinema Editor Award, “Parasite,” South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s black comedy thriller and morality tale may be cruising toward an Oscar.
In a triumph for fine filmmaking no matter where it’s made, “Parasite,” has taken the global box office and critics by storm.
It opened in limited release with a 393,216 U.S. dollars weekend, resulting in, according to Variety, a record-breaking, “best ever” opening per-screen-average-revenue for a foreign language film in the United States. It even beat the per-screen-average-revenue record previously set by Hollywood’s homegrown darling, “La La Land.” Then it went on to gross more than 33 million dollars in North America and a princely 163 million dollars globally — not bad for a plucky foreign indie.
Commercially-viable and adroitly-written dramas on the weighty subject of class war between the “have nots” and the “have way too much” are hardly box office gold in the United States, where audience preferences tend more toward blockbuster, bicep-bulging, spandex-wearing superhero fare or family-friendly Disney musicals.
But as a foreign drama, the list of hurdles “Parasite” has had to overcome to garner international eyeballs and critical acclaim was exponentially higher, and one begins to see just what a miracle this surprise hit from the other side of the world really is.
Foreign films face a steep language barrier that prevents easy watching for native English-speakers who are notoriously resistant to watching films in a foreign language. This is largely due to that daunting obstacle that “Parasite’s” writer and director, Bong Joon-ho, referred to as, “the 1-inch barrier of subtitles.”
“Unlike audiences in other countries, American audiences don’t grow up going to see foreign films,” Clayton Dube, director of USC’s U.S.-China Institute, explained to Xinhua. “People in many other places have foreign films as part of their entertainment diet from an early age.”
In addition to that, the film is not just foreign, it’s Asian, from South Korea, not Europe. Asian films face additional hurdles due to the unique differences in Western and Eastern culture which can make storylines and cultural nuances opaque to Western viewers and more difficult to be understood and appreciated.
“We don’t always laugh in the same things or appreciate the tension or other emotions in a particular situation,” Dube said.
But “Parasite” has managed to break through those formidable barriers with its run-away box office success and to engender a veritable love-fest with film critics, industry leaders and the top film organizations around the world.
Bolting out of the gate last May, “Parasite” made history by becoming the first Korean film to win the coveted Palme D’Or – the prestigious Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor. The film made history again as the first foreign language film to win the Screen Actors Guild’s top award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. It also won Best Foreign Language film at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s prestigious Golden Globes; then it won Best Film Not in the English Language and Best Original Screenplay at the British Academy of Film and Television Award in Britain, and nabbed the American Cinema Editor’s highest film editing award too.
Add to that, Hollywood’s Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA), and Art Directors Guild (ADG) have all also nominated it for their top honors, giving “Parasite” commercial visibility and artistic recognition and acceptance rarely seen outside of Hollywood.
At the Writers Guild of America Awards, co-authors, Han Jin-won and Bong Joon-ho won “Best Original Screenplay” – the guild’s top honor.
“This was the first project I wrote with director Bong Joon-ho,” writer, Han Jin-won told Xinhua. “And it was great for me because he let me write freely.”
In fact, IMDB reports that the “unstoppable tsunami” of “Parasite” has resulted in 163 nominations worldwide and 157 wins. That’s success by any measure.
It’s also worthy of note that “Parasite” has been chosen as one of the Top Ten films of 2019 by a parade of industry leaders and influencers, including, LA Times, NY Times, Forbes,
The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Hollywood Reporter, Rotten Tomatoes, New York Post, RogerEbert.com, People Magazine, Rolling Stone, USA Today, and many more.
Lee Sun-Kyun, co-star in the movie, told Xinhua, “There are so many great films from foreign countries, from Asian countries. I hope there will be opportunity for a lot more foreign language films next year.”
But the biggest prize for “Parasite” may be yet to come: the Oscars, scheduled to be awarded by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences on Sunday.
Making more cinematic history, “Parasite” is the first South Korean-made film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture at the upcoming 92nd Academy Awards.
Astonishingly, it has nabbed six Oscar nominations, including the Academy’s top prizes, Best Picture, Best Director and Best International Feature Film, much like Mexican film director Alfonso Cuaron did with his biopic, “Roma,” last year.
When asked by Xinhua if he thought an Oscar was in store for them, the film’s star, Song Kang-ho, replied, “This film resonates well around the world because these days every society has problems with ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ existing side-by-side with one another. But as to the Oscars, who can say?” Enditem