Bong Joon Ho (‘Parasite’) on class warfare, families on the brink, and similarities to Jordan Peele [WATCH]

“Class is a theme that penetrates our times,” director Bong Joon Ho said during a special Directors Dialogue at the New York Film Festival. He was discussing his own unsettling haves-vs.-have-nots satire “Parasite,” but also the work of his filmmaking peers around the world, including fellow Korean director Lee Chang-dong‘s “Burning,” Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s “Shoplifters” and even American Jordan Peele‘s “Us.” Watch Bong’s entire hour-long filmmaking discussion above.

“I think it’s natural for artists to be sensitive to the times that they live in,” Bong explained. “It’s not as if me, Jordan Peele, Lee Chang-dong and Hirokazu all gathered at the UN headquarters … to strategize about creating films on class. I think every artist just responded to their times in their own ways, and that’s why we’ve had such strong films in the past couple of years.” Take also Bong’s 2013 class allegory “Snowpiercer,” which was a Korean-Czech co-production in the English language, based on a French graphic novel — clearly class has long been a relevant subject for storytellers all over the world.

“Parasite” specifically tells the story of a poor family that gradually manipulates its way into the employ of a wealthy family — though who exactly is the parasite and who’s the host is open to interpretation. But while the story has clear political dimensions, it’s also based in part on Bong’s personal experience: “I also tutored for a very rich family when I was in college,” he said. “I still vividly remember the eerie feeling I had just being in the house. I remember how proud that young boy seemed to be … and I remember how I felt like I was spying on the private lives of complete strangers. Those personal memories were where my ideas for this film began.”

But “Parasite” — like all of Bong’s films really, including “The Host” and “Mother” — is also about family. “Most of the families in my films are shattered in some strange format or they’re lacking something,” he told festival goers. “So my stories always begin with families that are incomplete, and I drive them towards extreme situations. Families are the most basic unit of people that we encounter on a daily basis, so I always have this impulse to drive them into very unique situations.”

Unique is certainly a good way to describe the events that unfold in “Parasite.” It had its New York premiere at NYFF before opening in select theaters on October 11. It has already generated some of the best reviews of the year and made history for Korea by becoming that nation’s first Palme d’Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival. It could also become Korea’s first Oscar winner for Best International Feature.

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