History was created at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday when South Korea’s Parasite won the Oscar for Best Picture. No foreign-language production has ever won an Oscar in this category. This is, in fact, the first time that a South Korean film has been nominated at the Oscars.
Parasite was nominated in five other categories, among which it won Best International Feature, Directing and Original Screenplay.
Directed and co-written by South Korean wunderkind Bong Joon-ho, Parasite is a slick and savage satire about an insurrection against wealth that is carried out by a family of charlatans. The Kims pretend to be unrelated individuals and get employed in important positions in the wealthy Park household. The Park mansion, however, holds secrets, leading to grave consequences for both families.
Deftly directed and performed and superbly designed as a clash between the upstairs and the downstairs, Bong’s commentary on social and economic inequality has been wowing the world since it was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2019, where it won the highest honour, the Palme d’Or. The numerous awards for Parasite and a healthy global box office (an estimated $130 million) have catapulted Bong, whose credits include Memories of Murder, The Host and Okja, to the very top of the stairs.
Parasite was “only the 11th foreign-language film to be nominated in the top category and only the sixth film to be nominated for both best picture and international feature film,” The Hollywood Reporter noted. Its predecessors include France’s Z (1969), Italy’s Life Is Beautiful (1998) Taiwan’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), and France/Germany/Austria’s Amour (2012) as well as Alfonso Cuaron’s Spanish-language Roma, the publication added.
A total of 8,469 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences voted in this year’s Oscars. The Academy added 842 new members from 59 countries in 2019. International members make up an estimated 20 percent of the Academy’s voters, according to an Associated Press report. These include several Indians, such as Zoya Akhtar, Sharmila Tagore, Sooni Taraporevala, Resul Pookutty and Anil Mehta.
The nominations for the 92nd edition reflect both this newfound diversity as well as the acknowledgement that just like Hollywood has gone global, world cinema too has finally come to America. It took Bong Joon-ho to do what non-Americans haven’t been able to in the past – scale the ladder, and fittingly enough, with a subversive film that attacks hierarchy and the gap between the poor and privileged. In his moment of glory, Bong was both a Kim as well as a Park.
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