Neon’s “Parasite” made history on Sunday night at the 92nd Academy Awards, becoming the first foreign-language film ever to win a best picture Oscar.
Directed and co-written by Bong Joon Ho, the film follows an impoverished South Korean family posing as qualified professionals to gain long-term employment by a wealthy family.
Bong also won best director and best original screenplay, and “Parasite” won best international film, for a total of four Academy Awards.
Backstage with producer Kwak Sin Ae, co-screenwriter Han Jin Won, and translator Sharon Choi, Bong said in English, “It’s really f—ing crazy!”
“I’m just a very strange person,” Bong said. “I just did what I always did with producer Kwak. I feel like something will hit me and I will wake up from this dream.”
As he did during his speech for the best director, Bong continued to sing the praises of his fellow nominee Martin Scorsese (“The Irishman”). “I’ve seen Scorsese lose this award multiple times. He didn’t know me then, but I was so frustrated,” Bong said. He was happy to see Scorsese win for “The Departed.”
“To be nominated with him was so exciting,” Bong said.
Accepting the award onstage, Kwak said: “I’m speechless. We never imagined this to ever happen, we are so happy. I feel like a very opportune moment in history is happening in history right now. I express my deepest gratitude and respect for all the members of the Academy for making this decision.”
Following her remarks, producers cut the main stage lights and threw to presenter Jane Fonda, who was meant to bring the show to its end. But the audience revolted, with A-listers like Tom Hanks and Charlize Theron raising their arms and chanting, “Up! Up Up!” in reference to the lights.
They got their way.
When the lights came back up, executive producer Miky Lee said: “Bong, thank you. Thank you for being you. I like everything about him. His smile…the way he talks, the way he walks, and especially the way he directs,” she said.
“I really, really, really want to thank our Korean film audience, our moviegoers,” she continued, saying the feedback has ensured the team never became “complacent.”
“Parasite” began receiving accolades in May 2019 when the film won the Palme d’Or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. Since then, the film has become a global box-office phenomenon, grossing $33.9 million domestically and $166.1 million worldwide. The film became the second foreign film to be nominated and the first to win at the Screen Actors Guild for outstanding performance by a cast. “Parasite” had also been nominated for top prizes at the Producers Guild, Directors Guild and BAFTAs.
It took the top Oscars prize over “1917,” “Ford v Ferrari,” “The Irishman,” “Joker,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”
Backstage, Bong was asked what message he had for Asian actors trying to work in the film industry. He noted that “The Farewell” — featuring an all-Asian cast, largely set in China and spoken in Mandarin — just won best feature at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. Bong singled out the film’s director Lulu Wang for praise, and noted that it shouldn’t be necessary to separate Asian films from any other types.
“Me and Lulu Wang, we just make movies,” he said. “It’s all the same.”