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The Academy Awards have come and gone once again, but cinema has been changed forever. One can have optimism that this change is for the better. Oscar-winning director Bong Joon-ho spoke about the Oscars with disdain last year in an interview with Vulture, saying “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.” He called the American love for his newest film “Parasite” “strange”.
It is strange. American audiences don’t typically watch foreign films. Many Americans claim that they don’t have the attention span to put their phones down and appreciate the film for what it is. Bong Joon-ho also said after winning the Golden Globe for best director earlier this year “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many amazing films”.
He couldn’t have been more right. Recently, I’ve started to go through the Criterion Channel, a streaming service of classic films. These classics include the filmography of acclaimed international directors such as Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini. Sadly, The Academy has never acknowledged these films.
Out of the 92 years of the Academy Awards, only 13 films have been nominated for best picture that weren’t in English. Out of those, none won until this year. This is a reason to celebrate. While Bong Joon-ho never expected to win, he swept the major categories with 4 wins for “Parasite,”: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film and Best Director. This type of sweep is not typical for the Academy, but much less for an international picture. As film fans, art lovers or people who just want to diversify their cultural appreciation, people everywhere can celebrate these historic wins for Bong Joon-ho and the filmmaking community.
All we can do now is hope that the Academy keeps on this track and that this will encourage audiences to watch more international films.