“Parasite” became the first foreign language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars to go with three other victories for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. but that’s not the only history it made on Sunday. Here are all the barriers the South Korean hit has broken.
1. First foreign language film to win Best Picture
“Roma” came close, but “Parasite” crossed the line. “Parasite” was only the 12th film not in the English language to be nominated for Best Picture and the first from South Korea. Bong Joon Ho and Kwak Sin Ae are the first Asian producers to win Best Picture.
2. First South Korean film to win Best International Feature Film
Hard to believe, but no South Korean film had ever been nominated for Best International Feature Film, fka Best Foreign Language Film, until “Parasite.” And now the country is 1/1 in a category that historically favors European films.
3. First Palme d’Or champ to win Best Picture in 64 years
“Parasite” started its long award season at the Cannes Film Festival in May, where it became the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or. The last Palme d’Or winner to go all the way to the Oscars was “Marty” (1955).
4. Best Director went to an Asian helmer for the third time
Bong joins Ang Lee as the only Asians to win Best Director. Lee prevailed twice for “Brokeback Mountain” (2005) and “Life of Pi” (2012), but neither film won Best Picture, which makes Bong the first Asian helmer to win directing and the top prize.
5. Bong’s directing win is the eighth time the Oscars and the Directors Guild of America Award have differed
The DGA is one of the most reliable Oscar precursors, having matched 64 times in the previous 71 years. Sam Mendes (“1917”) looked like he’d be the 65th match — especially after wins at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs as well — but alas, Bong pulled off the biggest upset of the night. The other times DGA and Oscars have deviated are:
DGA: Anthony Harvey, “The Lion in Winter”
Oscar: Carol Reed, “Oliver!”
DGA: Francis Ford Coppola, “The Godfather”
Oscar: Bob Fosse, “Cabaret”
DGA: Steven Spielberg, “The Color Purple” (not Oscar-nominated)
Oscar: Sydney Pollack, “Out of Africa”
DGA: Ron Howard, “Apollo 13” (not Oscar-nominated)
Oscar: Mel Gibson, “Braveheart”
DGA: Ang Lee, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”
Oscar: Steven Soderbergh, “Traffic”
DGA: Rob Marshall, “Chicago”
Oscar: Roman Polanski, “The Pianist”
DGA: Ben Affleck, “Argo” (not Oscar-nominated)
Oscar: Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
6. Bong and Han Jin Won are the first Asian writers to win
Bong and Han took home Best Original Screenplay, becoming the first Asians to win either writing category. The only other nominees of Asian descent in original screenplay are Hanif Kureishi (1986’s “My Beautiful Laundrette”), M. Night Shyamalan (1999’s “The Sixth Sense”), Iris Yamashita (2006’s “Letters from Iwo Jima,” shared with Paul Haggis), Ronnie del Carmen (2015’s “Inside Out,” shared with Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley) and Kumail Nanjiani (2017’s “The Big Sick,” shared with his wife Emily V. Gordon). In adapted, Wang Hui-ling and Tsai Kuo Jung are the first and only Asian writers to be nominated there, for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000), shared with James Schamus.
7. “Parasite” is the first Asian-language film to win writing
“Parasite” is the sixth foreign language film to win a writing Oscar, but the first five — all also in original screenplay — were all in European languages: Switzerland’s “Marie-Louise” (1945) was in German; France’s “The Red Balloon” (1956) and “A Man and a Woman” (1966) were in French; Italy’s “Divorce Italian Style” (1962) was in Italian; and Spain’s “Talk to Her” (2002) was in Spanish.
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