During a virtual masterclass with Chapman’s Dodge College this week, Oscar winner Bong Joon Ho reflected on the rise of anti-Asian hate in the United States and called on his fellow directors in Hollywood and all around the world to “use your insight to portray the issues that are currently boiling underneath the surface of society that can explode later on.” Citing films like Spike Lee’s 1989 drama “Do the Right Thing” and his own barrier-breaking Best Picture winner “Parasite,” Bong called on the film industry to meet the moment.
“I’m far away in Korea and I have to see everything in the news from an outsider’s perspective, but as someone who is a part of mankind, as a person, it’s quite fearful to watch the hate crimes against Asian-Americans and the BLM movement,” Bong said, accompanied by his translator Sharon Choi. “I do think about what the film industry can do at this time. With films, creating a film takes a lot of time and a lot of money; it’s a big unit that can’t really respond quickly to issues that are currently happening in society. It’s a medium that’s difficult to use when you are trying to respond in real time. But ironically, because of that, I think creators and filmmakers can be bolder with dealing with issues and they shouldn’t be afraid to confront them.”
Bong said he recently watched “Do the Right Thing” and thinks it’s a perfect example of the kind of filmmaking that should emerge out of the current moment. “That film came out in 1989; it was three years before the LA Riots but almost predicted the riots were going to happen,” the “Parasite” and “Okja” filmmaker said. “I think that’s the role creators and artists can play, not necessarily to predict what will happen in society, but to use your insight to portray the issues that are currently boiling underneath the surface of society that can explode later on.”
“For me, ‘Parasite’ was a film where I tried to take that approach … [the film] talks about the haves and have-nots of our current society,” Bong continued. “It began with a question of ‘what does it mean to be poor or rich in our current times?’ As creators and artists, you sort of have to see through the essence and the central questions in our society through the days that you live through and send a reply to those questions through your work.”
Since winning a handful of Oscars for “Parasite” in 2020, Bong has remained out of the spotlight. The filmmaker has two projects currently in development and finished the screenplay for one of them during the pandemic. No details about either project have been given.