The past year was an amazing year for movies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had a particularly difficult task in selecting the nominees and winners for the 2020 Oscars. After last year’s awards sent fans into a rage, this year’s also had a lot to make up for.
Overall, this was one of the more entertaining shows in recent years, largely because the speeches were short and sweet.
However, once again, many of the nominations were criticized for being mostly white men with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Although race and gender certainly shouldn’t matter, over the past five years—and beyond—Academy voters have shown clear bias on who and what should win.
While it is true that the Academy overlooked several key performances by people of color and women (Lupita Nyong’o for “Us,” Eddie Murphy for “Dolemite is My Name,” and Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” to name a few), these critics may be pleased to see more diversity in some smaller awards like best short film-documentary and animated (“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” and “Hair Love”), but also some larger ones too.
Taika Waititi made history by becoming the first indigenous man to win an Oscar. He won best adapted screenplay for his delightful yet controversial script “Jojo Rabbit.”
Hildur Guðnadóttir became the first woman to win for best original score in “Joker.” Bong Joon Ho became the first South Korean to win best original screenplay, as well as the first to win best director.
Most exciting, as you probably have heard by now, Bong’s film “Parasite” won both best international film and best picture on Sunday, Feb. 9.
But what does this win mean for Hollywood and the Oscars, and why is it so important? This is a historic and well-deserved win because “Parasite” is not only the first South Korean film to win best picture, but also the first foreign film ever to win a best picture. Foreign representation at the Oscars is nothing new. Several films from around the globe have been nominated for awards outside the foreign film category before, especially in the documentary and short film categories, occasionally in the screenplay categories, and a few in the best picture category.
However, European countries like Italy, France and Sweden have long dominated these categories with the great auteurs of classic cinema like Federico Fellini, Jean Renoir and Ingmar Bergman. But the Academy has seriously been lacking in its representation and recognition of non-European foreign films.
There have been 12 foreign films nominated for best picture in history. Only two films nominated were from Asian countries, including “Parasite.” The first one ever nominated was “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” a Chinese film from 2000.
This is especially shocking considering the films of Akira Kurosawa, a Japanese master of cinema working around the 1950s. However, Kurosawa does have a nomination for best director, one out of the four Asian directors nominated out of a total of 33 foreign directors ever nominated.
Some will argue that this is because films from Asian countries are just not up to par with the standards of Europe and America. But that is blatantly false, as shown in the stunning works of Akira Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Hayao Miyazaki, Ang Lee, Bong Joon Ho and many others.
Since Hollywood has so long forgotten about Asian cinema, it is truly a great feat that the first foreign film ever to win best picture was a film from South Korea. This is a big win for foreign cinema, Asian cinema and cinema in general.
Crafted by Korean experts, “Parasite” has proven that even though the Oscars may not be as inclusive as they should be, the Academy is growing to appreciate art. Bong famously called the Oscars a “very local” film festival. Hopefully, this historic win shows that the Oscars are branching out and embracing great art beyond our own borders.
This win is the first step in what will likely be a long journey to more inclusive awards shows. The Oscars should not be merely an annual celebration of American films, but a celebration of all films across the globe.