2020 Oscars were special. For the first time in 92 years, a non-English film won some of the most important awards including the Best Film and the Best Director Award. Bong Joon-Ho’s Parasite, a film about poor family’s struggle for daily existence mirrored by another family which has everything in excess that the poor family dreams of having. What happens when the two families cross paths and what that leads to forms the plot of the film. With tough competitors like Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, Quentin Tarantino’s Once upon a time in Hollywood, Todd Philips’ Joker, Sam Mendes’ 1917 and other films including Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit, it was a surprize for everyone when Parasite was announced as the winner of the Best Film award. The surprise and the shock was amplified when Bong Joon-Ho was awarded the Best Director award too. It was completely unexpected that the Academy would do something that it had not done in last 92 years. And therefore, when the jury decided to change what it’s previous path and go in a new direction, though shocked and amazed, the decision was welcomed by everyone (of course with a few people not quite happy with the decision.)
However, celebratory and welcoming it is, Parasite, winning the major Academy awards, should be looked at as a clear message for the people engaged in the business of films – both creators and the viewers. It is quite evident that with the coming of the popular OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime along with exclusive streaming services like Mubi and Mynk, the audience has a great variety of films from across the world in front of them which, earlier, was a thing limited to film societies and film clubs in metropolitan cities and big universities. The cinema that people watched was limited to what was available to them in the theatres and later on television. However, cinema could be much more than what they were seeing was never an option as they had never seen a film other than offered by the established industries. Talking about India, the audience was mainly exposed to the ‘Bollywood’ films, the regional films from their particular region/state and at times, a big Hollywood film from a famous and already successful franchise. Today, things have changed for good. Regional Cinema has crossed borders and people are watching films made by different regional filmmakers in different languages. The regional and the independent cinema has found a new breathing space in the form of these digital platforms which was never available to them earlier. In all this, Parasite, a non-Hollywood film, winning the Best Film award at the 2020 Oscars is a great thing that could have happened. It sends out a clear message to the world that it is time for us to go beyond the established industry-based film business and explore all the wonderful films that are available for us to devour, to enjoy and to identify what the art of films can be. It is time for us to go beyond the ‘woods’ – Hollywood, Bollywood, Tollywood, Nollywood – break the decades-old boundaries and explore the excellent cinema that is being made all over the world. This can also be seen in what Bong Joon-Ho had to say while accepting the Golden Globe award for the best foreign language motion picture –
“Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.