The West is not the Best: Will Parasite’s Success be enough to Reinvent the Film Industry?

As the awards season sees its final curtain close and the last embarrassing monologues are abruptly cut short, the Academy had one conclusive “surprise” win up its tuxedo sleeve this year. Parasite, Bong Joon Ho’s superb satirical exposé of class division in South Korea, took home the Academy’s top prizes, grabbing Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film. However, with Mark Ruffalo set to star in a new HBO adaptation of the international hit, will Hollywood’s efforts only detract attention away from praiseworthy international films or emphasise their excellence?

Until Sunday night, 2020 had proven to be a largely unremarkable and perhaps even regressive awards season. The BAFTAs, in particular, led the way with their false promises of more inclusive and diverse nominations, leaving many outraged. Indeed, the Oscars only nominated Cynthia Erivo for Best Actress for her role in Harriet and the Best Director category was bereft of any female directors. Many rightfully argued that Greta Gerwig was snubbed for her vision of her recent Little Women remake. However, the Academy has revitalised interest in this year’s season of accolades by backing Bong’s South Korean masterpiece Parasite. In the face of overwhelmingly traditional Oscar-bait films, Parasite took home four academy awards beating an unsurprisingly undiverse, white, largely male selection of Hollywood‘s usual suspects: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and Sam Mendes’ 1917. 

Parasite itself is a gorgeous film, and undoubtedly Bong’s best to date. The actors never skip a beat and the screenplay is packed full of black humour, providing the film with immense entertainment value, as well as intense shifts in dramatic beats – a feature which has become Bong’s signature auteur move over the last few years. Another stellar feature of Parasite is its visceral, visual representation of the entrenched rich-poor divide in Seoul, imaginatively portrayed through the cinematography and mise-en-scène. 

Disappointingly, it looks like perhaps the breakthrough in international cinema is to be diluted by HBO looking to further exploit the success of Bong’s critically acclaimed feature. Just recently, Mark Ruffalo was rumoured to star in an American television remake of the film which Bong has said will be a ‘6-hour miniseries version of the film’ with Ruffalo likely snatching Song Kang-ho’s role as the father, Mr. Kim. So much for climbing over the ‘one-inch barrier’ Bong eloquently pointed out in his Golden Globes speech earlier on in this awards season. One step forward, two steps back.

Yet, we must not forget how big an achievement Sunday night was for international cinema. With Parasite taking home all the major awards, it is bound to get the predominantly American dictated big studios thinking. Perhaps now the Academy will deem any international films worthy of being judged in the same category as the notoriously English-Speaking dominated ‘Best Picture’ category. If not, at least Oscars viewers can go back and watch some of Boon’s other filmography such as Okja

We can only wait until next year and hope that the next award’s season will credit the amazing work being done across the globe and not filter out everything that isn’t white or male-oriented. Parasite is an utterly fantastic film and it would be a shame if the film‘s success was marred by Hollywood‘s own parasitic inclinations towards money and success.

Image Credit: Barunson E&A