Curator of Film Dean Otto shares his thoughts on one of his favorite films of 2019, Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite.

Parasite, the South Korean dark satire on class warfare, had a successful run at the Speed Cinema last fall and is now streaming on Hulu. The film, directed by Bong Joon-Ho, was nominated for six Oscars and went on to win four, including Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in directing, and Best Motion Picture of the Year (a first for a picture not in English).

The timing of the film could not have been better, as the South Korean film industry was celebrating its centenary in 2019 when Parasite was released, generating a great deal of national pride when it won the Oscar. The class division skewered in the film also connected internationally as the division between rich and poor deepens. The film’s theme has new relevance as the COVID-19 crisis has damaged the economy, sending millions onto unemployment and furthering economic tensions. The film also touches on the fragile employment of a loyal domestic worker who is rumored to have an illness putting the family of her employer at risk—a strong concern for many workers in similar circumstances during the time of coronavirus.

The film, while sweeping awards throughout the season and earning over $52 million in domestic box office and over $202 million internationally, was slammed by President Trump in a rally shortly after the Oscar win questioning why a foreign film should win the top prize. That nationalistic sentiment crossed over to Twitter when Hulu promoted the streaming release.  One post read, “It’s not in English, no one wants to watch a movie that they literally have to read to understand what’s going on. Sound is such a huge part of movies and it being in a different language is so weir s (sic).”  To which Hulu replied, “If you don’t want to read subtitles, you can always learn Korean!” Slam!

Director Bong Joon-ho is currently working with HBO on a limited series inspired by the film and three-time Oscar winner Mark Ruffalo is being considered for one of the leading roles.  Adam McKay, who won an Oscar for Best Writing, Adapted Screen play for The Big Short in 2015 is working on the script with the director.