February 01, 2020
Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite might be the first South Korean film to win an Oscar. It would be a fitting reward for the country’s endlessly innovative film industry
Funny, political and bone-crunchingly violent: why Korean cinema is the worlds best
When Parasite director Bong Joon-ho got started on a story idea based on his twentysomething experiences as a tutor to Seoul’s super rich, doubtless ending up in the Oscar race for the best picture was not on his radar. No Korean film in history had even been nominated in the foreign language category, let alone for the biggest award of them all. But his uproarious but sorrowful class comedy about the Parks, a working-class Seoul family who infiltrate a well-to-do household by masquerading as private tutors and servants, became a stealth hit with US audiences. Before you knew it, he was on Jimmy Fallon, then skating through awards season, catching trophy after trophy. Now, with Oscars night looming, Bong’s film is up for honours in six categories, and, along with the much-fancied 1917, is considered a frontrunner for the top prize.
If Parasite wins best picture it will be overdue recognition for the creative hothouse that is South Korean cinema. In two decades, it has become pound-for-pound the most dynamic and original film industry on the planet, a home for muscular mainstream directors such as Bong and The Handmaiden director Park Chan-wook, but also festival-circuit favourites Hong Sang-soo, Kim Ki-duk and Burning director Lee Chang-dong.
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