LOS ANGELES (AP) — “Parasite,“ director Bong Joon Ho’s dark comedy about wealth inequality, won the Oscar for best international feature at Sunday’s Academy Awards, becoming the first South Korean film to capture an Oscar.
It was the second win of the night for Bong, who earlier shared the best original screenplay award with his “Parasite” co-writer Han Jin Won. Later in the evening he won the best director Oscar and “Parasite” was honored for best film.
A jubilant Bong accepted the international feature award to a standing ovation, noting he had won in a category that until this year had been named best foreign film.
“I am so happy to be its first recipient under the new name,” he said in Korean, adding, “I applaud and support the new direction that this change symbolizes.”
He then joked in English, “Thank you. I’m ready to drink tonight until next morning.”
“Parasite,” a critical and commercial success, features a cast largely unknown in the West. It tells the story of how an unemployed family of four living in a slum basement apartment comically con their way into the lives of one of Seoul’s wealthiest families before things begin to unravel darkly.
A favorite with critics, “Parasite” won the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or last year.
Backstage, Bong told reporters he believes streaming services like Netflix have made movie-watching a truly global experience and the result could be more foreign-made films crossing over to earn best picture nominations.
“In the current environment we currently live in I think we are all connected,” he said. “A foreign-language film winning this later won’t be much of an issue later on, hopefully.”
Still, he said he was stunned to see the film sweep as many Academy Awards as it did.
“I can’t even imagine the atmosphere in Korea right now and what will happen when we get back,” added Bong, who switched often from Korean to English as he spoke to reporters.
Other nominated films in the international feature category included North Macedonia’s “Honeyland,” which also made Academy Awards history as the first film to be nominated in both documentary and international feature categories.
It tells the poignant story of Hatidze Muratova, who supports herself by harvesting honey with ancient, sustainable methods while caring for her bedridden mother in a modest home without electricity.
Other nominees included “Les Miserables,” a modern-day French remake of the venerable 19th century Victor Hugo novel, and Poland’s “Corpus Christi.”
Rounding out the nominees was “Pain and Glory,” Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s touching drama about an aging film director wracked with poor health and depression who is inspired to work toward recovery after a screening of one of his classic films reunites him with an old colleague and a former lover. It earned Antonio Banderas an Oscar nomination for best actor.
Bong said he came up with the winning premise for “Parasite” seven years ago, originally envisioning it as a play with the stage divided between the homes of the wealthy and the impoverished families.
He also drew on his time as college-student tutor in creating the film’s young protagonist who, after landing a similar job, tricks his student’s family into providing jobs for his mother, father and sister, something Bong never did.
As for the future, he said he’s working on two film projects, one in English and the other in Korean.