“Parasite” made history at the Oscars in February by becoming the first foreign-language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The victory was one of four Oscars the Bong Joon Ho-directed thriller received in addition to Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. The dominance of “Parasite” at the Oscars was a historic moment driven by a remarkable campaign by Neon, PR agency ID-PR, and others, but it’s one Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos tells Variety his company is partly responsible for too. As part of Variety’s new cover story on Netflix’s global expansion, Sarandos said it was “Roma” that opened the door for “Parasite” to take the Oscars by storm.
“I think ‘Roma’ had a lot to do with that for ‘Parasite’ this year,” Sarandos said. “I think the idea that a foreign-language film had 10 Oscar nominations and won three, and the crossover awards categories for foreign-language film, I think really opened the door for ‘Parasite’ to be as successful as it was.”
According to Variety, Sarandos also “believes Bong’s film ‘Okja,’ released on Netflix three years earlier, also made audiences more receptive to Korean content.”
At the 2019 Oscars, Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix original “Roma” won Oscars for Best Foreign Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography. All of these awards went to Cuarón himself. The film was widely considered one of the frontrunners to win the Oscar for Best Picture, but “Roma” ended up losing the top prize to Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” in a controversial decision on the Academy’s part. Netflix reportedly spent well over $20 million on the Oscar campaign for “Roma.” While the film lost the top prize, it was still the first Best Picture contender in Netflix’s history.
Sarandos isn’t totally off base in suggesting the Oscar success of “Roma” played a part in the explosion of “Parasite” in 2020. “Roma’s” 10 Oscar nominations remain rare for a foreign language film (“Parasite” nabbed 6 nominations), and that the film was embraced with nominations in acting categories and craft categories hinted the Academy was becoming more receptive to foreign films across the branches. The one-two punch of “Roma” almost winning Best Picture and “Parasite” taking the prize, the Academy’s foreign film glass ceiling has seemingly been shattered.