Bong Joon Ho had his hands full of Oscar gold Sunday evening after his film “Parasite” made Oscar history, and he said he hopes its wins for best picture and best international feature breaks barriers for future filmmakers.
The thriller became the first non-English-language film to win best picture, and it is the first South Korean film to win the prize for best international feature, formerly known as the foreign film category. It is also the first time a film has won in both categories.
Bong took home a total of four Oscars, including his wins for best director and best original screenplay, the latter shared with Han Jin Won. He shared the best picture win with co-producer Kwak Sin Ae.
He told reporters backstage at the Dolby Theatre that he hopes the movie paves the way for other foreign films to achieve such recognition.
“So during the Golden Globes, I mentioned the one-inch barrier — subtitles — (but) people were already overcoming these barriers,” Bong said. “Naturally, we will come to the day when … a foreign language film winning this won’t be much of an issue.”
The psychological thriller tells the story of a family living in a squalid basement apartment and struggling to make ends meet before insinuating itself into the home of a wealthy businessman, eventually finding jobs for themselves as a tutor, driver, housekeeper and art therapist for the affluent family. It is a dark tale with no good guys and a creepy twist that illuminates the great divide between those with and without money and resources.
Bong said he was stunned by the response to the film.
“I just did what I’ve always done with great artists … it was the same process making this film but we’ve had these amazing results. It still feels very surreal. I feel like something will hit me and I will wake up from this dream,” Bong said through his translator.
Just as the translator finished up, Bong burst out in English, “It’s really (expletive) crazy.”
He said he has been inspired to look closer to home for his stories. His previous film “Okja” was a U.S./South Korea co-production.
“`Parasite’ which was a purely Korean film has garnered more enthusiasm from audiences all over the world and that’s making me think that perhaps the deeper I delve into things around me, the broader the story can become and the more appeal it can have to an international audience,” he said.
Asked if he ever dreamed of winning an Oscar, Bong recalled watching director Martin Scorsese lose.
“I’ve seen Scorsese lose this award multiple times and he didn’t know me back then, but I was so frustrated. I remember when he won for `The Departed,’ I was so excited. So to be nominated with him has been a huge honor. It’s hard to believe.”
His many influences include Korean director Kim Ki Young and many Japanese and other Asian master filmmakers, Bong said. He strongly recommended Kim’s 1960 film “The Housemaid.”
The director said the Oscar wouldn’t change what he’s working on.
“I do have a plan,” Bong said. “I have to work. It’s my job. So I’ve been working for the past 20 years. Regardless of what happened at Cannes and Oscars, I have been working on two projects before then … nothing has changed because of these awards. One is in Korean and one is in English.”
Bong and Kwak spoke of a future with fewer barriers.
Kwak said the win signals “the beginning of a different kind of change for international cinema, not just for Korea.”
Bong added, “I don’t think it’s necessary to separate all the borders and divisions, whether it’s Asia, Europe or the U.S. If we pursue the beauty of cinema and focus on the individual charms that each piece has, then I think we will naturally overcome these barriers.
“We will just make a movie,” Bong said.