The Korean film Parasite by famed director Bong Joon Ho has gained enormous media attention since it won the Palm d’ore at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival. It has set records and broken barriers since it’s debut. So far it is the highest grossing foreign film, the first Korean film to when the Cannes grand prize, the first Korean film to be nominated for both best picture and best international film, and Bong Joon Ho the first Korean to be nominated for Best Director. The hype surrounding the film have many wondering how and why. However I do wonder why so many question it’s success, especially from such an acclaimed director.
Waving my Invisible Korean Flag
In January, Parasite won Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes, being a first for a Korean film. Recently the extraordinary cast won best ensemble in a motion picture and the Best at the 2020 Screen Actors Guild awards. Again being the first Korean cast to be nominated and win. I was so proud and in tears to see them win an award that was voted on by their peers in the Guild. I actually said to myself,“Girl calm down, you’re not even Korean”! I had to wonder why I was so proud. I think it’s because so many of us non-Asian fans get so much shit from people about watching Korean/Chinese dramas and movies. The usual questions about not understanding the language or cultural references. For so long we have known how amazing this actors are and deserve international recognition for their work.
In a way it was like I was being validated for my love of Asian dramas and movies. Now I have people asking me have I seen the movie and if I know the actors. Which I answer proudly….Yes and Yes!
As much as I love Parasite, never would I have imagined that it would win 4 Academy Awards. I expected a win for Best International Film at the very least, however never would I have expected a win for Best Picture. It actually brought me to tears, as Parasite is the first non-English language film to win in this category. Deserving of the accolades, absolutely, however this would not be the first time the Academy snubbed great films or directors.
American film director, writer and producer Spike Lee has been repeatedly overlooked for such movies as 1989’s Do The Right Thing and 1992’s Malcolm X. Although they were controversial in many ways it was also revered by critics and audiences alike. He did receive a nomination for best screenplay for Do The Right Thing, however many believed that the film should have revived nominations for director and best picture. Yet it wasn’t until 2016 that Spike Lee was awarded an honorary Oscar for his achievement in film. It wasn’t until 2018 that he finally won, for the first time in almost than 30 years and 49 films for BlacKkKlansman, ultimately winning this Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay
Over the years the Motion Picture Academy has come under fire for not being inclusive to many films, writers and directors of and from people of color. In 2020 we are still celebrating “1st” at the Academy Awards, which have been awarded since 1929. So, yes, it was indeed surprising for Parasite to win 4 awards, in which 2 of them were in overall top categories.
Question and Answer Time
So now I find myself in the often unique position to be the unofficial non-Korean spokesperson for Korean Films and other forms of Korean entertainment. You see, when people know that you have a profound fondness for Korean culture they do one of two things. They either want to engage in conversation, trying to learn more, or they brush off your passion as being irrelevant. However now with not only all the buzz, news and award wins for Parasite, plus the Academy Award wins for some gives the movie more “legitimacy”.
I find myself most days having to defend my love of Korean/Chinese entertainment. The usual questions always about not under standing the language or the culture. Most are usually receptive to my simple explanation, that good entertainment can be enjoyed regardless of language or culture. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand where people are coming from.
People now want to have intellectual conversations about what I thought of the movie. Want to take about cultural references that they may have missed or misunderstood. I take the time to explain that some translations were for the sake of the masses and not exact translations. I explain this not because I’m not at all fluent in Korean, at best my Hangul is a toddlers level. I explain, that although the English translation for the university references was Oxford the actual university spoken about is Yonsei University, which is one of the top three colleges in Korea. Why do I take the time to reference this, because I want people to understand that the translation was for general recognition for the mass audience. It was done as a way to be inclusive to the non-Korean audience. This was one of many “translations” that were made to be inclusive to the non-Korean audience. *See the below article by Su Cho from a Koreans perceptive.**
Do I Have a Right to be Proud
Although I have moments of pride at the great and entertaining works of the Korean Film and Television industry I do wonder if I have a right to be just as proud as any other Korean. When Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han won for Best Screenplay the camera panned to Korean-Canadian actress Sandra Oh. Her absolute joy that was displayed on her face and her reaction was exactly how I was feeling in that moment.
I felt like I could only really share my joy with people like me, who are also P.O.C. non Asians who love Asian media. We understood each others joy. We understood that those we love and admire were getting worldwide recognition. Not that recognition is necessary for the work to matter, but it is so over due. In that space I realized I had the right to be happy, I had the right to celebrate, I had the right to shed a few tears of joy.
What Have I Learned..
I learned, that I have the right to feel joy about the things that make me happy. I have the right to hold my head up and be proud to be fan and avid watcher of some of the best television shows and movies in the business. That I take pride in doing the research in learning Korean culture and history so that I can understand and relate to what I’m watching.I learned that even when you are the lone wolf, it’s okay, just find your own pack. And sooner or later others will want to join too.
Until next time…..