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'Parasite' overcomes 'one-inch subtitle barrier'

All News 15:56 February 10, 2020

By Kim Boram

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- "Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films."

This remark by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho at this year's Golden Globes Awards after winning best foreign language film has resonated in the U.S., where few non-English films have won major awards at the Oscars and movie fans hardly watch subtitled films.

In this photo by EPA, South Korean director Bong Joon-ho poses for a photo after winning four Oscars during the 92nd annual awards ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2020, in this photo released by AFP. (Yonhap)

At this year's Oscars, Bong's black comedy thriller "Parasite" crashed through the barrier by winning four Oscar titles: best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best international feature film.

"Parasite" made history as the first foreign-language film to win the coveted top best picture Oscar in the event's 92-year history.

And "Parasite" is the first Asian-made movie to hoist multiple Oscar trophies.

It is also the second subtitled movie to capture the best directing and best international feature film prizes at the same time, following Alfonso Cuaron's "Roma" last year.

Moreover, Bong is the second Asian director to win the Academy's best directing award, after Taiwan's Ang Lee for "Life of Pi." He is the first Asian writer to be awarded best original screenplay.

He is also the first filmmaker to grab the top honor at Cannes and at the Oscars for the same film since 1955, when American romantic comedy "Marty" attained the double.

"Parasite" has been on a roll since the U.S. awards season started last fall, but nobody expected a film from the Far East to be the biggest winner at the Oscars.

Following countless top awards from U.S. local film critics associations, it won best foreign language film at the Golden Globes Awards and best non-English film and best screenplay at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards.

In the immediate run-up to the Oscars, "Parasite" took major guild awards in January, narrowing the competition to a duel with "1917" by Sam Mendes.

But many doubted that "Parasite" would win, as no subtitled film has won the Oscar's renowned best picture award for nearly a century. "Parasite" was considered a dark horse, challenging a possible sweep by "1917," which was nominated in 10 categories including best picture and best director.

In the end, however, the Academy chose "Parasite" for the best film of the year and signaled a clear change in the world's biggest cinema market, where English-language films are overwhelmingly the norm.

As part of this change, the normally conservative Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) renamed the best foreign language film category the best international feature film for this year.

"I am so happy to be its first recipient under the new name," he said in Korean after winning the prize. "I applaud and support the new direction that this change symbolizes."

On top of that, he has said "courtesy toward human beings (and) human dignity," the main themes of "Parasite," appeal to audiences throughout the world, despite the one-inch barrier, through the acting abilities of its cast.

"I really believe that (the actors') body language and expressions are truly the universal language," Bong said at the BAFTA awards.

A poster of "Parasite" provided by CJ ENM (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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