Sharon Choi, Bong Joon Ho’s awards season translator and the undisputed MVP of Oscar season, had a front row seat to the legendary awards season run of “Parasite.” Choi attended the Cannes Film Festival alongside Bong and was front and center when “Parasite” made history as the first South Korean film to take home the Palme d’Or. Months later, Sharon would take the stage at the Dolby Theater as Bong received Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film, Best Director, and Best Picture. “Parasite” is the first South Korean film to win Oscars and the first foreign-language movie to ever be named Best Picture. In between Cannes and the Oscars, Choi traveled with Bong to various festivals and award ceremonies and experienced firsthand the adoration for both the director and “Parasite.” The translator and aspiring filmmaker reminisces on her whirlwind Oscar season in a new first-person essay published on Variety.
“The past six months has been a blur of new cities, microphones and good news, with endless orders of honey lemon tea as I tried to preserve my voice,” Choi writes. “Driven from one crowd to the next, I shook hands with hundreds of people whose eyes shone with the excitement of having watched a special film. Moments alone were still riddled with the absurdity that I was sharing hand sanitizers with a man whose films I’d organized movie nights for in college. Somehow, despite having only micro-short films to my name, I got sucked into the heart of Hollywood.”
Choi explains that she first met Bong when she was asked in April 2019 to interpret a phone interview with the director. Choi was in the middle of trying to start work on a new screenplay when the offer came in, and she had prior experience translating for Lee Chang Dong for a week during the press tour for “Burning.” Bong’s team ultimately asked Choi to travel to Cannes with him, and she vividly writes about the night “Parasite” was unveiled for the first time.
“There was palpable electricity in the Grand Theater Lumiere when the film premiered at Cannes,” Choi writes. “It was moving to see a film about my home country touch people from so many different cultures. The two years I spent in the U.S. as a kid had turned me into a strange hybrid — too Korean to be American, too American to be Korean, and not even Korean American…Two cultures are usually just one too many for a film to contain. And yet here was this story that seemed to effortlessly break through all barriers. Originally, I was only needed at the festival for two days to do English press, but I ended up backstage at the closing ceremony sweating with anticipation until ‘Parasite’ was the only one left on the list of films to win an award.”
As for what it was like translating for Bong, Choi writes, “My job was made easy by his consideration, and it helped that I was already familiar with his language as a filmmaker and a thinker, having written college papers about him. Yet I was constantly battling impostor syndrome, and an anxiety that I might misrepresent the words of someone so beloved in front of people I’d grown up admiring. The only cures for stage fright were ten-second meditations backstage, and knowing that I was not who they were seeing.”
Now that Oscar season is over, Choi is returning to her normal life and her aspiring filmmaking career. Choi told press backstage at the Oscars that she is currently writing a screenplay herself for a new movie. Visit Variety’s website to read Choi’s essay in its entirety.