‘Parasite’ makes history as first Asian winner of a screenplay Oscar


Among its numerous firsts throughout this awards season, the genre-shredding class satire “Parasite” made history Sunday night by becoming the first Korean — and the first Asian — film ever to claim the original screenplay Oscar, with director Bong Joon Ho and co-writer Han Jin Won beating a field that included Quentin Tarantino (“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”), Noah Baumbach (“Marriage Story”), Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns (“1917”) and Rian Johnson (“Knives Out”).

Prior to this year’s Oscars, only five foreign-language films had won the original screenplay prize since the award was first given out in 1940 — the most recent being Pedro Almodóvar’s 2002 drama “Talk to Her.” But all of those winners came from European countries: namely, Switzerland, Italy, France and Spain

Indeed, of the more than 60 foreign-language films to earn an original screenplay nod in the past 80 years, including last year’s “Roma,” prior to “Parasite” only three had come from the Asian continent: the 1959 Japanese-French co-production “Hiroshima Mon Amour,” the 1959 Soviet film “Ballad of a Soldier” and the 2011 Iranian drama “A Separation.”


The only Asian nominee in the adapted screenplay category remains the 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

In the entire history of the Academy Awards, no foreign-language film has ever taken home the best picture Oscar — a precedent that “Parasite,” which earned six nominations in all, is hoping to break. Speaking to The Times in September at the Telluride Film Festival, director Bong said he felt the film’s exploration of the divide between the haves and have-nots resonated around the globe.

“Of course, on the surface level, all of the details, the mannerisms, the people and the visual elements are all very Korean,” Bong said. “But the topic of the gap between rich and poor lends itself to being so universal. I think every country has their own structures and conflicts regarding class. But when you really delve deep into the cave of capitalism and explore the sort of infinite darkness of it, you find a similar sort of mechanism flows throughout.”