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‘Parasite’ Makes Oscar History as First South Korean Movie to Win Foreign Film Prize

"Parasite" started its awards run by making history at Cannes, and now it ends it making history at the Academy Awards.

Parasite

“Parasite”

Neon

The Oscar for Best International Feature Film going to Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” marks a history-making moment for the Academy Awards. “Parasite’s” victory is the first time South Korea has won the International Feature Film category in the history of the Oscars. The category was formerly called Best Foreign Language Film. Bong’s social thriller was the frontrunner to win the International Feature Film Oscar after nabbing six total Oscar nominations this year, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Original Screenplay. “Parasite” was the first South Korean movie to be nominated in any of these categories, making the film a history-making before the awards ceremony even began.

“Parasite” ending its awards season journey with a history-making victory at the 92nd Academy Awards is a full circle moment as the movie started its run at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it world premiered to unanimous acclaim and made history as the first South Korean movie to take home the prestigious Palme d’Or prize.  At the time of its Cannes win, Bong expressed hope that his victory would reignite passion and create interest for South Korean cinema across the world.

While it’s hard to believe, the 92nd Academy Awards was the first time South Korea competed for Oscars. Many Oscar pundits expected South Korea to land a nomination in 2019 with Lee Chang-dong’s “Burning,” but the foreign film committee snubbed the beloved thriller (“Burning” also got close to winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes just like “Parasite” but lost out to Japan’s “Shoplifters,” which did land an Oscar nomination). “Burning” and “Parasite” are the only two South Korean films to even make the Oscars shortlist. Bong was last submitted in 2009 for “Mother.” Recent South Korean submissions that failed to land Oscar nominations include Jang Hoon’s “A Taxi Driver” (2017), Kim Jee-woon’s “The Age of Shadows” (2016), and Lee Joon-ik’s “The Throne” (2015).

Neon released “Parasite” in the U.S. in the fall and it has gone on to gross over $30 million, making it one of the biggest foreign releases ever at the domestic box office. “Parasite” is Bong’s first $100 million grosser worldwide. The film’s current global tally is more than $163 million and counting. Expect U.S. grosses to continue to soar now that “Parasite” is an Oscar winner.

With six Oscar nominations, “Parasite” became the rare foreign-language drama to compete in more than just the international film category. The success of “Parasite” one year after Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” landed 10 Oscar nominations and three wins, including Best Director, point to foreign films being more recognized across the board moving forward. This year’s International Feature Film nominee “Pain and Glory” also landed a Best Actor nomination for Antonio Banderas. Speaking to The Wrap ahead of the Oscars, Bong said he’s most excited “Parasite” landed its craft nominations.

“I’m particularly happy with the Best Editing and Best Production Design nominations for the film — for the film to be acknowledged for its craft and below-the-line work,” Bong said. “For Korean cinema, a lot of people in the international community only know the auteurs, the directors, but we have so many great technicians and masters working in the industry. And for the first time now, these amazing technicians are recognized.”

As for what Bong will do next following his history-making Oscar win, the director is currently developing a television series adaptation of “Parasite” for HBO. Bong is working with fellow Oscar winner Adam McKay on the project. McKay is the producer of HBO’s beloved “Succession.” When it comes to movies, Bong has not announced a follow-up project. Bong has spoken openly about receiving Hollywood offers after his films crossover and become U.S. hits (that’s what happened with “The Host”), but the director has vowed to stay as original as possible, telling IndieWire at TIFF last year that he wants to model his career after Quentin Tarantino. If Marvel comes knocking for Bong to do a superhero movie, he’ll most likely turn it down.

“I don’t think Marvel would ever want a director like me,” Bong told Variety on an episode of “The Big Ticket” podcast. “I don’t expect any offers from them anytime soon. Of their movies, I did enjoy the films by James Gunn and James Mangold’s ‘Logan,’ and I think there are great directors who can handle great projects like that. The film industry seems complicated, but I think it’s quite simple for directors. It’s just best to do what you’re good at. And so I don’t really think Marvel and I are suitable for each other. That’s something I just intuitively feel.”

Click here for a full list of 2020 Oscar winners.

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