Feb 15th, 2020, 04:14 PM

Overcoming The One-Inch Barrier

By Paulina Trigos
Image Credit: Official "Parasite" movie poster (Bong Joon Ho)
South Korean film "Parasite" stunned with an unexpected Oscar win. What does that mean for the film industry?

While the Park family watches torrents of rain through their glass-paned, luxurious house, the Kim family descends the stairs of illusion to reality, realizing the intensity of the social hierarchy. In Bong Joon Ho’s film “Parasite,” an anti-capitalistic depiction of classicism, elitism and ignorance are brought to the fore through symbolism, making the underlying message explicit. 

What starts as an entertaining story with a humorous tone about deceiving the rich soon turns into a horrifying tale of the reality of the separation and exploitation of classes. On February 10, the anticipated Academy Awards celebrated its 92nd ceremony in Los Angeles, California where they honored some of the best films of 2019.  

Nominated for six Academy Awards and winning four, “Parasite” made Oscars history as the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture. After years of predictability and controversies over Oscars nominees and winners, such as the #OscarsSoWhite dispute, the win has stunned the world.

In the wake of so much criticism from viewers and film fanatics towards the Academy nominations' lack of diversity in gender, nationality, and race, the film’s win comes as a refreshing breath of fresh air. It encourages people everywhere to immerse themselves in the world of foreign films, able to surmount Joon Ho's self-titled "one-inch barrier."

“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” commented the "Parasite" director in his Golden Globes acceptance speech. But can this surprising win truly defeat the barrier that limits so many when it comes to enjoying film and classifying it as ‘good?'


Throughout the years, there have been many foreign films regarded as the beginning of the revolution towards surpassing the limitations imposed by the Academy and Western society in general. Purely Hollywood movies are always esteemed, but in 2019, there has been a significant shift into a new era where the value of a film does not hinge on language.

“I don’t think 'Parasite' itself is revolutionizing the entertainment industry," AUP student Alexandra Weisskopf, film enthusiast and film minor, said. "I think there have been plenty of foreign films of that caliber before it. But I’m glad that Hollywood is turning this new page with foreign films. I think 'Parasite' is a great start because no one can argue how good it is."

Winning over Best Picture favorites such as Sam Mendes’s “1917” and Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” "Parasite" may signify the birth of a new era where foreign films are appreciated at the same level as English-language films. “I think it’s particularly interesting that 'Parasite' beat 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.' The latter was literally a love letter to Hollywood, not just the film industry, but Los Angeles and Hollywood itself,” said Weisskopf.

Although many people disliked “Parasite” for unfounded reasons such as the use of subtitles, the film in itself raises awareness of the discrimination various films encounter due to their originality and for simply not fitting into what is regarded as familiar.

"Parasite" was not seen as a possible favorite, even less as the winning picture, simply because of the Academy's tendency to award the prize of Best Picture to English-language films. For this sole reason, some viewers disliked that "Parasite" took the spotlight away from Hollywood films. 

Image Credit: "Parasite"  directed by Bong Joon Ho (2019)

Hopefully, Joon Ho's win represents the beginning of something new, innovating how people view the world of film and its industry.

“I think a well-done movie is a well-done movie, regardless of what country it’s made in," Weisskopf said.

"You’re not a true fan of film if you’re willing to ignore a good movie to avoid subtitles,” continued Weisskopf when asked if foreign films should be valued at the same standard as Hollywood films.

Even with so much controversy still surrounding “Parasite” and its win, Joon Ho has made history for the achievement, and so has the Academy for recognizing the film. By promoting foreign-language films, people who are not used to watching movies from other countries will now possess the curiosity and initiative to open their minds to a world that once seemed beyond them.

Oscars NightImage Credit: Creative Commons