South Korea‘s Parasite made history to become the first film not in the English language to take home best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.
Bong Joon Ho’s satire of inequality took Hollywood’s top prize at the Oscars on Sunday night, along with awards for best director, best international film and best screenplay, beating off competition from highly-fancied dramas including 1917, Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood, and The Irishman.
Parasite has already won many awards including the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
Parasite’s win was a watershed moment for the Academy Awards, which has long been content to relegate international films to their own category.
Multiple standing ovations greeted Bong’s several wins.
“I am ready to drink tonight,” Bong said, prompting roars from the crowd. Unexpectedly called up again for best director, Bong saluted his fellow nominees, particularly Martin Scorsese, and concluded: “Now I’m ready to drink until tomorrow.”
The win for Parasite came in the same year many have criticised the lack of diversity in the nominees and the absence of female filmmakers.
For the 87th time, no women were nominated for best director, a subject that was woven into the entire ceremony, and even into some attendees’ clothing. Natalie Portman wore a cape lined with the names of female filmmakers who were not nominated for best director, including Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Greta Gerwig (Little Women) and Mati Diop (Atlantics).
The acting categories were also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to remake its membership. Cynthia Erivo, in the running for Best Actress for her role in Harriet, was the only actor of colour nominated for an award. All the acting prizes went as many had predicted with Brad Pitt, Renee Zellweger, Joaquin Phoenix and Laura Dern taking home the golden statuettes.
The hostless ceremony opened on a note of inclusion, with Janelle Monae performing A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and her own song, Come Alive, with help from Billy Porter.
“I’m so proud to be standing here as a black queer artist telling stories,” Monae said. “Happy Black History Month.”
Two former Oscar hosts, Chris Rock and Steve Martin provided the opening monologue. “An incredible demotion,” Martin called it. Martin also pondered that something was missing from the year’s directing nominees. “Vaginas!” Rock replied.
There were milestones, nevertheless.
In winning Best Writing Adapted Screenplay for his Nazi satire Jojo Rabbit, the New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi became the first Indigenous director ever to win an Oscar. He dedicated the award to “all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art, dance and write stories.”
“We are the original storytellers,” Waititi said.
Joker composer Hildur Gudnadottir became only the third woman to ever win best original score.
“To the girls, to the women, to the mothers, to the daughters who hear the music opening within, please speak up,” said Gudnadottir. “We need to hear your voices.”