Parasite – A Game-Changer for International Films

On Sunday, Parasite made history at the Academy Awards. Bong Joon-Ho’s mystery drama would go up to the Oscars stage four times and changing the rhetoric around international films. Parasite’s win for Best Picture made it the first international film to win the Academy’s top award in its 92-year history.

Parasite won its first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. His acceptance speech recognized the responsibility the film carried on its shoulders. “Writing a script is always such a lonely process. We never write to represent our country. But this is very personal. I thank all the actors who are here with me today for bringing this film to life.”

The film would step on the stage a second time, winning the award for Best Foreign Language Film. The director himself went on stage to accept the speech once again, feeling it would be the last award the film would win that night. That quickly changed as Bong Joon-Ho won the award for Best Director.

“Thank you. After winning Best International Feature, I thought I was done for the day and was ready to relax. Thank you so much. When I was young and studying cinema, there was a saying that I carved deep into my heart, which is that “The most personal is the most creative.” Bong would go on to thank his inspiration, fellow Oscar nominee Martin Scorsese.

Parasite would ultimately make history in its upset win over 1917 with Best Picture. “I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening right now,” Parasite producer Kwak Sin-ae, exclaimed.

Parasite’s success brings new meaning to the impact of international films on American audiences. In the past, foreign-language films would have little to no chance in most movie theatres, often playing in independent cinemas or a couple of film festivals. Parasite, along with other acclaimed international films like Roma, provide a potential turning point for international films in America.

The streaming age has undoubtedly helped to open the borders of international cinema. With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Warner Media, and Disney each having streaming platforms, the ability to house international films that traditional theatres and distributors pass, due to the risk of the low box office, expands.

The shift of American audiences taking international films seriously continues to expand and improve. As Bong Joon-Ho said at the Golden Globes, “once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”