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Looking for a second and third Bong Joon-hos

Posted May. 29, 2019 07:40,   

Updated May. 29, 2019 07:40


A play titled “Fight for Justice” premiered at Dansungsa, the first movie theater of Korea located in Jongno, Seoul, on October 27, 1919. Part of the play was a motion picture. This was the very first film produced by people of the Joseon Dynasty with their own funds in their own country. A hundred years later, in the early morning of May 26, 2019, South Korea was excited with astonishing news from Cannes, France. I was pulling an all-nighter to prepare myself for hosting an event the next day to discuss a movie with an audience after visiting a small film festival held in a remote area. Then, my phone went off with notifications for messages pouring in from social media celebrating South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” winning the Cannes Film Festival's top award, the Palme d'Or. It was clear evidence that many Koreans were staying up late anticipating Bong to win the award.

As 2019 marks the 100th year since the first Korean film was produced, Bong’s winning of the Palme d'Or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival holds even deeper significance to the Korean film history. First, “Parasite” has become the first Korean film to win the prestigious award and this victory marks a second consecutive year that the Palme d'Or went to an Asian director. There have been eight Asian movies awarded Palme d'Or so far. Multiple Korean films competed in Cannes for awards for the past years, during which Korean directors including Im Kwon-taek, Lee Chang-dong, and Park Chan-wook have garnered a great deal of attention from film lovers worldwide. In particular, “Burning” directed by Lee Chang-dong who took home the best screenplay award in 2010 for his drama "Poetry” was anticipated to be a potential winner last year, although the final result fell short of expectations. Korean films had not received any award in Cannes for almost 10 years until this year’s “Parasite.” Bong’s splendid win is a medal bestowed by the international film community that has satisfied the Korean film industry’s desire for more despite its continued growth over the years.

There are three reasons for “Parasite” to have enjoyed the highest praise at the film festival. First, Cannes has a historical preference for movies involving stories about families. “Parasite” looks into a story between two families. Second, the film was directed by Bong Joon-ho who has earned his reputation as a director that commands attention for every new movie of his. Lastly, a sharp, critical view on neoliberalism with black comedy components is featured in the film. His criticism of “those who have,” which has been showcased consistently in a series of his films, was ever more pointed and piercing in “Parasite.”

Bong’s “Parasite” is standing tall at the center of global movie community’s attention by winning the top honor of the world’s most celebrated film festival at a monumental period in the Korean film history. I hope to see Korean films to blossom once again with this victory and look forward to a remarkable performance of a second and third Bong Joon-hos, not only in films but the overall Korean culture.

Gab-Sik Kim dunanworld@donga.com