‘Parasite’ Winning Best Picture Is a Powerful Reminder of What Many Americans Are Missing

After the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced, the prestigious awards ceremony came under fire for a lack of diversity. At the Feb. 9, 2020, Academy Awards ceremony, it seemed like the voting body wanted to make up for it. Four Oscars going to Parasite, a foreign film, may seem like overcompensating, but one can reasonably argue the film deserved each statue.

At the very least, the Oscar sweep reminds the mostly American audience that foreign movies are just as good and interesting as Hollywood ones. Parasite, directed by South Korean director Bong Joon Ho, is the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars. It’s a big step toward inclusivity and increasing awareness of the great filmmaking that happens outside of the United States.

Yes, Hollywood is the most financially successful and culturally pervasive film industry in the world. However, it’s not the biggest: India’s is. And yet, while people in India (and many other countries) watch American movies, over in the United States, watching foreign flicks isn’t too popular. But all this means is that American moviegoers are missing out on great film.

Parasite cast
The cast and crew of Parasite at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards |
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Other countries watch Hollywood films, but we barely watch their movies

People all over the world see Hollywood films. Our movie culture is deeply embedded in the rest of the world, mainly because the U.S. was the first country on the globe to mass-produce and distribute films.

The Hollywood industry is so omnipresent, and big blockbuster films have been so successful in high-population countries like China and Russia that international film markets dictate Hollywood’s decisions more than domestic ones. (In other words, Tinseltown makes way more money abroad than it does here.)

It’s why you keep seeing the same movie every summer, and you will for the rest of your life. Those good vs. evil, car-chase-and-explosion-heavy tentpoles based on comic books work. (Especially for teens in Moscow. we suppose).

But, there is no cultural exchange; there is no equal balance on the U.S. side of things. It’s simply not a given that Americans see foreign films. Even the phrase “foreign film” feels pretentious, and they are so often the butt of a joke in a TV show; a character who watches international movies is given that interest to appear pompous.

Bong Joon Ho Parasite director
Bong Joon Ho | Jennifer Graylock/PA Images via Getty Images

‘Parasite’ showed American moviegoers how much we’ve been missing out on

But the fact that the United States hasn’t integrated movies from other countries into our zeitgeist (and for the most part, our awards ceremonies) is a giant missed opportunity. Despite South Korea’s impressive, extensive history of filmmaking, for example, Parasite is the first-ever Korean film nominated for an Oscar (and that includes the foreign film category).

Yes, the dialogue may be in another language, but aside from the minor hassle of reading subtitles (which is really not that big of a deal, you can all calm down about “having to read”), the language barrier should not be an issue because: film already is its own language. Like most art, it speaks in a very specific way. Cinema communicates through color, and composition, as well as editing, acting, writing. (And mise en scène, and composition, and camera movement, and soundtrack, and so on and so on).

High and Low
Movie poster for Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 drama ‘High and Low | Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images

Sure, some things get lost in translation or go over our heads because we’re not all familiar with the same cultural touchstones. But that doesn’t mean that these movies aren’t just as meaningful, impactful, emotionally real, or entertaining for the American viewer.

Where to start with international movies

If you’re brand new to foreign film (or Parasite was the first toe-dip) and have no idea where to start, we’ve put together some recommendations from around the world. We humbly present this very eclectic list of foreign movies, in the hopes you might find one that suits your taste:

Pedro Almodóvar
Pedro Almodóvar attends the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party | Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

Shoplifters: a 2018 Japanese crime drama directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

Amélie: a 2001 French romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Roma: a 2018 Mexican drama directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Lagaan: a 2001 Indian musical drama directed by Ashutosh Gowariker

El niño pez, or The Fish Child: a 2009 Argentinian drama directed by Lucía Puenzo

Laurence Anyways: a 2012 French-Canadian drama directed by Xavier Dolan

Viridiana: a 1961 Spanish dramedy directed by Luis Buñuel

Kyss Mig, or Kiss Me: a Swedish romance directed by Alexandra-Therese Keining

Contempt: a 1964 French new-wave drama directed by Jean-Luc Godard

La historia oficial, or The Official Story: a 1985 drama directed by Luis Puenzo

Mujeres al borde de ataque nervioso, or Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: a 1988 Spanish comedy/drama directed by Pedro Almodóvar

High and Low: a 1963 Japanese thriller directed by Akira Kurosawa

El secreto de sus ojos, or The Secret in Their Eyes: a 2009 Argentinan thriller directed by Juan José Campanella

Dancer in the Dark: A 2000 Danish drama directed by Lars von Trier

Tesis, or Thesis: a 1996 Spanish thriller directed by Alejandro Amenábar

3 Idiots: a 2009 Indian comedy-drama directed by Rajkumar Hirani

Caché or Hidden: a 2005 French psychological thriller directed by Michael Haneke

El laberinto del fauno, or Pan’s Labyrinth: a Mexican/Spanish 2006 horror/drama directed by Guillermo del Toro