To say Parasite won big at the 2020 Oscars could very much be the understatement of the year—and it’s only February.
Bong Joon-ho made a mark on Hollywood when he went up onstage early in the evening to pick up the award for Best Original Screenplay. It was South Korea’s first ever win at Oscars and that moment itself would have been more than enough to satisfy the country.
Except that was just the beginning.
Within the span of a few hours, Parasite made history again. And again. And again.
The awards it earned got progressively more prestigious: Best International Film Feature was followed by Best Director (Bong is only the second Asian director to win in this category—the other is two-time winner Ang Lee for Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi). The night ended on a historic high note with Best Picture.
In the Academy’s 92-year history, Parasite is the first non-English language film to take home the top award.
The win comes as a welcome break from the barrage of criticism that the Academy Awards have been facing for being too white and too male. This year, Janelle Monae even sang the words, “Oscars is so white” during her live performance while Natalie Portman wore her support for snubbed female directors on her cape.
Despite hashtags like #OscarsSoWhite trending heavily on social media for the past five ceremonies—and a choice of movies like Crazy Rich Asians, Black Panther, The Farewell and Little Women proving themselves to be both commercial and critical success stories—Hollywood has yet to catch up.
That’s why Bong’s Parasite, a dark commentary on the widening wealth gap of South Korea’s rich and poor, came as a big surprise.
News media outlets in South Korea have been busy splashing the news of the movie’s triumphant win and its success at breaking down what Bong once called, the “one-inch tall barrier of subtitles.”
South Korean news agency Yonhap ran a story with the headline: “Parasite wins four awards at the Oscars and rewrites 92-year history.”
“Oscars yield to Bong Joon-ho and Parasite”, read a Korea Herald headline.
During a news broadcast on MBC, one of the country’s biggest broadcasters, an anchor called Feb. 10 “the most important day in Korean cinema’s 101-year history.”
On Naver, a popular South Korean search engine, search terms related to the movie and Bong Joon-ho dominated throughout Monday, eclipsing terms related to the novel coronavirus that had been trending prior to the Oscars.
Even South Korean president Moon Jae-in congratulated the win with a tweet:
“I am proud of director Bong Joon Ho, the actors and crew. I am especially grateful to them for instilling pride and courage in our people as we come together to weather difficulties,” he wrote. “Parasite has moved the hearts of people around the world with a most uniquely Korean story.”
He credited Parasite’s winning streak to “the accumulated efforts of every Korean filmmaker over the past 100 years. I am very pleased to see a Korean film stand shoulder to shoulder with those of other countries and mark the beginning of another 100 years of Korean filmmaking.”
He also started his regular staff meeting with a round of applause for Bong, the team and the movie.
Other political figures who extended their congratulations on Twitter included former South Korean prime minister Lee Nak-Yeon.
“[Parasite] changed the world and Korean film history,” he wrote.
Some of South Korea’s top celebrities were also quick to post their congratulations on social media.
BTS‘s official Twitter account tweeted: “[We] reallyreallyreally really really congratulate director Bong Joon-ho”
Actor Park Seo-joon, who had a cameo in the movie as Min-hyuk, posted two posts on Instagram. The first was a video announcing the winner of the Best Picture category, accompanied by a simple caption: “This is crazy..”
The second was a photo of friend and fellow actor Choi Woo-shik, who plays Kim Ki-woo in the film.
The Korean diaspora was also feeling jubilant. Canadian-American Actress Sandra Oh, the daughter of Korean immigrants, tweeted a congratulatory message, and added “So so proud to be Korean”.
Other celebrities chimed in.
“It’s time for representation,” wrote Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, adding: “Our craft has the power to transcend borders and languages, and tonight Parasite demonstrates exactly that.”
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