allain’s review published on Letterboxd:
Despite all challenges, a historic moment finally came into fruition exactly one year ago today. Out of the 9 films nominated in the Best Picture category at the 92nd Academy Awards, only 1 was Asian. The odds were generally always stacked against films with characters speaking a language that isn’t English, because not everyone can understand a language beyond that and their native one and the general public isn’t fond of subtitles. I remember rooting for this film while I was watching the livestream of the event and thought that Best International Feature Film is the last award it can get, as for the entire 92-year history of the Academy has no non-English film ever won the coveted Best Picture. I recall rooting for Jojo Rabbit because let’s face it, the Academy sure loves giving feel-good movies that award, or 1917 because of its divine one-take effect that bewildered me in theaters–a place that I miss, by the way. Worst case scenario, my least-liked nominated film, Joker, will win. My lack of confidence for Parasite winning isn’t backed by anything, as statistically speaking, before it, the other ten non-English language films that were ever nominated in this category failed to snatch the award, and that includes Life is Beautiful and Roma, two films that completely shattered me in my first watch. But then, the winner was announced and it was indeed Parasite, and I swear that was the last good thing that ever happened in 2020.
In that exact moment, I remembered a friend of mine dragging me into watching this film way back in September of 2019. I admit that my love for cinema wasn’t as pronounced before, as I only watch films that I know I would love and a South Korean film directed by a director I don’t know–yes, I haven’t watched much Asian films and I’m changing that–isn’t exactly appealing to my mainstream moviegoer ass. But thank God my friend literally dragged me to a local theater near our university to watch it because this film made me appreciate Asian cinema in a much wider scale. I was in complete awe after that ending and I kid you not that we’ve watched that film again the next day. Before Parasite, I can count all the Asian non-Filipino films I’ve watched using my hands because of my bias towards American and European films and it’s an understatement that it opened a Pandora’s box of curiosity in me, that made me appreciate cinema in general.
A year ago, an Asian film opened a multitude of opportunities for other Asian and international films to be recognized and considered. It was an inspiring night for all non-white directors aspiring to win the biggest recognition of all time and to know that language truly isn’t a barrier for cinema. That an Asian, just like me, went on that stage and gave a speech only us can understand. That speech still resonated with me until now; that you will come to know countless other films once you overcome that 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles. It truly was a beautiful sight to watch, but one year later, did anything really change?
As you may have already know, the Golden Globes completely shut Lee Isaac Chung’s Minari out of the Best Picture category because Korean is the dominant used language in the film. For some of you, it’s not that big of a deal, but Minari is in all sense an American film. It was directed, produced, and written by Americans and even the plot is about about an American family adjusting in the states. While you may argue that they’re Korean-American, they are literally living the American life and are Americans by nationality, so I don’t understand how that makes them less of an American. The fact that that Golden Globes knew this beforehand and still banned Minari from the Best Picture category is beyond absurd to me and their reasoning fueled my anger even more. They honestly assumed that Americans only speak English and nothing else, and if you’re an American who can speak more than English, you should definitely be outraged. I was expecting that things would change after a non-English film won one of the most prestigious awards a director can ever win and that the other awards committees would change their policies, but alas, I was wrong. The denial of talent and recognition stems from the lack of diversity and internalized racism in the members of film awards and it’s extremely infuriating that it’s still the way it is in this time and age.
For so long, non-white directors have struggled to tell their stories and get an ounce of funding and recognition and I won’t let that continue any longer. I may not have that big of a voice and I may have been a month or two late in this issue, but my point still stand. I’m afraid that this will have a domino effect and the Academy will also snub Minari out of the Best Picture or all of the main categories altogether. While it may be true that Parasite opened a lot of doors for non-English films to be appreciated, I’m terrified that it will also be the last, because a bunch of film snobs, who refuse to watch a film because it isn’t spoken in English, will continue to normalize their backwards mentality. I think I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: Parasite isn’t the pinnacle of Asian cinema. Sure, it’s a beast of its own, but remember that Asia is a huge continent filled with talented directors, screenwriters, and actors of the past, present, and future, who made and will make films that are so great the only thing it need is someone who will watch and appreciate it. Be that someone.
In summary, I remembered that Parasite won the Best Picture award exactly one year ago today and decided to watch the Criterion Blu-ray I’ve bought. I may got a little bit emotional after watching. Seen the B&W version by the way God it’s so beautiful in UHD.
Also thank you for the support in my last rant (previous review). I was too upset and annoyed that day that I just snapped but rest assured that I’ve cut ties with that person. I took a two-day off from interacting with anyone besides my closest of friends and fixed my sleeping schedule (I sleep before midnight now can you believe) so you can say that I’m fixing both my physical and mental health while I still have my uni break. Anyways, stay safe everyone!