South Korea’s Bong in Oscars race marked by lack of diversity

Bong Joon-ho secures nomination for the film, ‘Parasite’, but women and ethnic minorities overlooked.

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho also won a Golden Palm for his film, 'Parasite' at the Cannes Film Festival in May [Ian Langsdon/EPA]
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho also won a Golden Palm for his film, 'Parasite' at the Cannes Film Festival in May [Ian Langsdon/EPA]

Director of the film Parasite, Bong Joon-ho said he was surprised and overjoyed when his work secured six Oscar nominations, a historic first for South Korea‘s film industry and a sign perhaps that language was no longer a barrier to global success.

A dark comedy about the vast gap between the rich and poor in South Korea, snagged a coveted Best Picture nomination, Best Director for Bong, and Best Screenplay in addition to its best international feature nomination.

“Every time they announced the new nominations, it was so thrilling, because we didn’t really anticipate any of this,” Bong told Reuters Television in an interview in California.

Bong had previously discussed the challenges of international films breaking the “language barrier” around the world but said the nominations suggest those barriers may now be falling.

“We can say that thanks to the internet, social media and these streaming services, the entire society is experiencing less of these language barriers and perhaps Parasite benefitted from that global trend,” he said.

In a video shared online by production company NEON, one of the show’s stars, Song Kang-ho, managed to keep a firm grasp on his cup of coffee as he and others in the room celebrated the news.

“The sign you’re a global superstar: You don’t spill your coffee when your film is nominated for Best Picture,” the company said.

Oscar-nominated film, St Louis Superman, is directed by Smriti Mundhra (second left) and Sami Khan (right), and tells the story of Bruce Franks Jr It was produced by Malaysia-born filmmaker Poh Si Teng (left) [File: Dave Kotinsky/Getty/AFP]

Films competing against Parasite for Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, include Todd Phillips’ superhero movie Joker, which received a total of 11 nominations overall, Martin Scorsese’s elegiac crime film The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s Los Angeles fairy-tale Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood and Sam Mendes’ moving war epic, 1917. 

Lack of diversity

Although a record 62 women (or about a third of nominees) were nominated on Monday, the academy put the most weight behind a handful of swaggering male-driven and men-made movies predicated on virtuosity, spectacle and star power.

For the 87th time, the academy selected all-male directing nominees although Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women secured a nod for Best Picture.

This year’s Oscars field is also the least diverse since the fallout of #OscarsSoWhite pushed the academy to broaden its membership.

US actress and director Greta Gerwig won a nomination for her film “Little Women” but was overlooked in the Best Director category [File: Nina Prommer/EPA]

Awkwafina, who was widely expected to become just the second Asian American nominated for best actress (the first, 1936 nominee Merle Oberon, hid her South Asian heritage) for her acclaimed performance in The Farewell was overlooked, as was Beyonce, for her Lion King song.

So too was Jennifer Lopez, long considered a supporting actress frontrunner for her performance in Hustlers.

Documentary nominees

In documentaries, Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan, were nominated for Documentary (Short Subject) for their 25-minute film St Louis Superman, which follows an African-American rapper, who ran for a legislative seat in the US state of Missouri, following police-related gun violence in the city of Ferguson.

In a post on social media, Mundhra said she was “shell-shocked, overwhelmed and profoundly grateful” for the nomination.

The film’s producer, Malaysian documentary filmmaker Poh Si Teng, commented: “A very good morning.”

The US-based producer commissions films for Witness, an Al Jazeera documentary programme.

A second Al Jazeera documentary, In the Absence, about South Korea’s Sewol ferry disaster, was also nominated for an Oscar in the same category.

The film is directed by Seung Jun-yi and Gary Byung Seok-kam.

The Academy Awards will be presented in Los Angeles on February 9.

Awkwafina won Best Actress (Musical or Comedy) at the Golden Globes in January for her performance in The Farewell but was overlooked for the Oscars [File: Mike Blake/Reuters]


Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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