‘Parasite’ First Non-English Language Film to Win Best Picture Oscar

The Korean-language film Parasite by Bong Joon-ho made history as the first film in a foreign language to win Best Picture.

Korean director Bong Joon-ho made history last night as his film Parasite was the first film in language other than English to win Best Picture.

Bong Joon-ho, here with interpreter Sharon Choi, won big at Sunday's Oscars.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The film, which is a comedy-horror-thiller drama, also won three other awards, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, and Best Director. This comes after last fall, when Bong Joon-ho criticized the Academy and stated, "The Oscars are not an international film festival,” he told Vulture’s E. Alex Jung then. “They’re very local.”

When accepting the Best Screenplay trophy, Bong reflected on expectations of filmmakers outside of the U.S. and how they differ from U.S. writers: “Writing a script is always such a lonely process; we never write to represent our countries,” he said via Choi, before adding in English: “But this is [the] very first Oscar to South Korea.” He is also the first Asian filmmaker to win that particular award.

Parasite isn’t just the first Korean film to win an Oscar; it’s also the first to ever earn a nomination. It also is the first film to win Best International Film after the controversial decision to change the name from Best Foreign-Language Film. The title of "Foreign-Language Film" had been criticized for being outdated, including by 'Roma' director Alfonso Cuarón last year during his acceptance speech where he pointed out the trappings of having something titled 'foreign language': “I grew up watching foreign-language movies and learning so much from them and being inspired, like Citizen Kane, Jaws, Rashomon, The Godfather, Breathless …” he said.

The Oscars have been heavily criticized for lack of inclusivity, so perhaps a 'Parasite' win for Best Picture is the beginning of a more diverse pool of winners in the years to come.

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