Director in Focus: Bong Joon-ho

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South Korean director Bong Joon-ho recently became a record-breaking, industry-shattering filmmaker after picking up an incredible four Oscars at the 92nd Academy Awards back in February. Bong sparked the eager attention of audiences and critics worldwide after the release of his film Parasite, the recipient of the Oscars (for Best Director, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay and a history-making Best Picture win) and many other film awards. In winning Best Picture, Parasite became the first foreign-language film ever to claim the most prestigious of prizes, which will hopefully mean that the director has paved the way for a greater appreciation of South Korean cinema going forward.

Parasite, which is now the highest-grossing film not in the English language on British shores, allowed an off-Hollywood style embraced by many international filmmakers to be appreciated by wider audiences. The biting social satire follows a lower-class family in the heart of South Korea who infiltrate the home of an upper-class family, taking over their lives bit by bit. With its historic wins, Parasite signals a shift in the potentially stagnating landscape of the Academy Awards, allowing the uninitiated to open their eyes to the beauty of international cinema.

Bong has long been admired in arthouse and critical circles, his films gaining him an auteur status due to their use of stylistic tropes such as black comedy, sudden tonal shifts, genre-mixing, and political themes. Born to a large family, the director’s early life surrounded him in the world of art and film, pushing him down a creative path that would eventually lead to widespread acclaim.

Although Bong’s first film Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000) achieved a small amount of success in his home nation, it was second feature Memories of Murder (2003) that breached foreign markets and saw people begin to take interest. He then solidified his position in the industry and gained great commercial success with blockbuster hit The Host (2006), scaling down for contemplative drama Mother (2009), then moving into the realm of Hollywood with sci-fi Snowpiercer (2013). Unlike Bong’s previous works, Snowpiercer had an international cast with actors from both the US and UK, including Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, as well as Korean performers such as frequent collaborator Song Kang-ho (who has starred in four of the director’s seven features).

Bong’s films are amongst the highest-grossing in South Korea’s history, and Parasite was the first South Korean film to win the coveted Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (the first in a series of many firsts). He has stated in interviews that he has been inspired by many illustrious filmmakers, including Guillermo del Toro and Nagisa Oshima, but soon enough it will be Bong providing inspiration for the next generation of budding directors. We can’t wait to see what he does next.

Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, was distributed in the UK by Studio Canal, certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: 

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third-year film student & records/live exec 20/21

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