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‘Parasite’ director Bong Joon Ho returns to Oscars with interpreter Sharon Choi

Sharon Choi standing next to Bong Joon Ho, holding a pink envelope
Director Bong Joon Ho and interpreter Sharon Choi present the award for directing during the 93rd Academy Awards.
(Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)

“Parasite” director Bong Joon Ho is back at the Oscars. And so is his beloved interpreter, Sharon Choi.

While presenting the Academy Award for directing Sunday from Dolby Cinema in Seoul, Bong contemplated what it means to be a director. Choi, who is also a filmmaker, earned widespread attention and praise last awards season for her acclaimed interpretations of Bong’s many acceptance speeches. In 2020, “Parasite” collected a slew of accolades — including the Oscars for directing and best picture.

“I’m a director myself, but I don’t really know what to say when I get asked this question,” Bong began his remarks Sunday, as interpreted by Choi. “It’s a little embarrassing to answer with a straight face — a bit cringey as well. But more than anything else, it’s difficult to give a short and clear answer.”

“When I get asked this question during an interview, I just want to gloss over the answer or run away. But this time, I was the one to ask this question to the five directors nominated tonight. The question was, ‘If you had to explain, to a random kid on the street, what directing is in 20 seconds, what would you say?’ The five directors all sent their replies. The replies were something very personal.”

“Nomadland” takes home the best picture, director and lead actress awards at the 2021 Oscars.

As Bong relayed the responses from this year’s directing nominees — Chloé Zhao (“Nomadland”), Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”), Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), David Fincher (“Mank”) and Thomas Vinterberg (“Another Round”) — subtitles appeared on the screen, allowing viewers to read their words. (Choi did not interpret this section.)

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The display reminded some of Bong’s powerful speech at the 2020 Golden Globes, during which he encouraged moviegoers to “overcome the 1-inch tall barrier of subtitles” in order to experience “so many more amazing films.” “Parasite” won the 2020 Golden Globe for international feature film.

“LOVE that the director comments Bong Joon-ho asked for were presented in Korean with English subtitles,” tweeted Times utility journalism assistant editor Ada Tseng on Sunday. “Feels kinda subtly revolutionary.”

“Hahahah Bong Joon-Ho said HA! YALL GON GET SUBTITLES! TOO BAD!” tweeted writer and podcaster Wynter Michell.

Bong presented this year’s directing trophy to “Nomadland” filmmaker Zhao, who is of Chinese descent and now the first woman of color and second woman ever to win the directing Oscar.

See more reactions to Bong and Choi’s presentation below.


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