Bong Joon Ho finally got a hero’s welcome in South Korea after relocating to LA

Bong Joon Ho poses with the Oscar for Best Picture in the film Parasite during the the 92nd Academy Awards, 2020 on Sunday 9 February 2020

Parasite’s Oscar sweep still makes me smile. It was so amazing to see the actual best film of the year win all of the big prizes – Best Screenplay, Best International Film, Best Director and Best Picture. Bong Joon Ho deserves the world. This clip has been going around – after a LONG awards-season, he finally got to return to South Korea. He received a hero’s welcome:

What I find interesting is that Bong’s big return to South Korea really is a big deal because he had not been home in a very long time. As much as the Bong Hive wanted to claim that Bong Joon Ho dropped in, told Americans to suck it up and learn how to read, and ended up winning all of these Oscars simply because the film was that good, that’s not what actually happened. I read this amazing Indie Wire piece about how the Parasite Oscar campaign started to come together basically at the Cannes Film Festival last year (where Parasite premiered). A publicist named Mara Buxbaum saw it there at Cannes and approached Bong and basically pitched him on the idea that she needed to help shepherd him through every stage of the Oscar campaign and that she believed it could win Best Picture. From the Indie Wire piece, after Mara “chased” Bong at Cannes:

A few months after Cannes, when the film won the Palme d’Or, Buxbaum got on a Skype call with Bong in Korea to finalize the deal to represent him and his movie, starting in Telluride. She told him: “I see a Best Director, Picture, Screenplay campaign. I believe you deserve to be on that path. I passionately want to help ensure that.” Buxbaum was going with her gut, that what she experienced other people would share. And at Telluride, that faith was borne out. “I’ve been on tons of campaigns and projects where that is not always the case, and you wind up feeling alone because people don’t always love it the way you do.”

By Telluride, Neon’s VP of Publicity, Christina Zisa, had set a promotional schedule for Bong around the film’s October 11 opening in North America. Of course, it all came down to Bong’s willingness to work hard, beyond the Toronto, New York, and London festivals; he and his family moved into a Los Angeles apartment. “He worked tirelessly not just for North America,” said Buxbaum, “but throughout the world to bring this movie everywhere.”

Neon pursued the beats of the campaign step by step (which included hiring Oscar consultants Perception PR, Ryan Werner’s Cinetic, and Nancy Willen’s Acme PR), and launching the awards campaign with the Hollywood Film Awards. The campaign evolved as the opening weekend delivered strong box office, with lines around the block. “This movie had a grassroots feel to it,” said Buxbaum. “It was special, equally because as we believed it, others believed it too. The love for movie kept building like a snowball that got bigger.”

[The SAG Award for Best Ensemble] meant the movie had support from the actors, but “Parasite” did not win the DGA or PGA. It did win Original Screenplay at the WGA and BAFTA. Bong himself was the special sauce.

“You have to make the journey easier so that people want to wrap their arms around you,” said Buxbaum. “Bong is that person. People kept falling in love with him and his voice throughout his process.” Even his rivals adored him, from old fan Quentin Tarantino and new friends Todd Phillips, Taika Waititi, and Martin Scorsese, who Bong movingly tributed on Oscar night. “They all loved him, but they also had such a good time,” said Buxbaum. “He wants to talk movies with them.”

The director always wrote his own speeches, delivered with a genuine smile, throughout. “He was tired,” said Buxbaum. “But he showed up 100%. He doesn’t look to anyone, doesn’t fabricate any of it. He’s a man wholly authentic and himself.”

[From IndieWire]

To me, this is a better story than “Bong Joon Ho the genius fluked his way to Oscar victory just on sheer talent.” He absolutely is talented and Parasite is an incredible piece of art, but I love the fact that Bong Joon Ho bet on himself and bet on his vision and his film. He made the commitment to relocate to LA and to do all of the awards shows and events and screenings and panel discussions and… it worked. It’s amazing, because usually it wouldn’t work for a foreign film, you know?

Bong Joon Ho poses with the Oscar for Best Picture in the film Parasite during the the 92nd Academy Awards, 2020 on Sunday 9 February 2020

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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13 Responses to “Bong Joon Ho finally got a hero’s welcome in South Korea after relocating to LA”

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  1. Tiffany says:

    Promotion is part of the business and if it was not for awards, it would have been for BO returns and Parasite now has both.

    Bong Joon ho is not dumb and was willing to listen to people who could help get it past the indie circuit. So be it. We also are not dumb and know this is part of the business.

  2. Lucy says:

    No one deserved it more.

  3. tegteg says:

    I watched Parasite this weekend and LOVED it. I ended up watching it again the next day and catching things I missed first time around. I was riveted during the entire movie. There were no extraneous scenes, the cinematography was beautiful, and the cast was phenomenal. Truly a spectacular film.

    I also watched OUATIH and was not impressed. I’m really not sure why Tarantino’s film was up for any awards. It was self-indulgent and there was no reason it should’ve been 3 hours long. The plot was nowhere to be seen. It was supposed to be a fun film and it just wasn’t… I could barely finish it. It didn’t help that I watched Parasite before. Whereas Parasite was concise and perfectly edited, OUATIH had so many scenes that felt unnecessary – they could’ve been cut and it wouldn’t have affected the “plot.”

    Suffice to say, like Kaiser I’m so glad the most deserving movie won this year. It was leagues ahead of all the rest.

    Side note: I wasn’t impressed with Brad’s acting. It feels like he’s been doing this same character for years. Maybe that’s just me, though.

    • Dee Kay says:

      @tegteg, are we the same person lol. Every single thing you wrote was what I felt about both Parasite and OUATIH. Thank you for putting all of my feelings about both films into words.

    • A says:

      It’s actually been a good couple of years for the Oscars, in some ways? With Olivia Colman winning last year, and Bong Joon-Ho and others like Taika Waititi winning this year, there’s the smallest of shifts that’s happening, which is a good thing. I want to hope that it keeps going this way, where the most deserving films and people win, but the acting noms this year fell completely short on that front unsurprisingly.

      Ah well. We take our small victories where we get them.

    • stem says:

      There’s an excellent video on YT breaking down and explaining how meta and self-referential (to his own films) QT has gotten with OUATIH. I think it was a good film for film nerds and as usual is pure pastiche and genre-mixing.

      But Parasite was technically excellent in every sense and elegant in a way OUATIH isn’t and had the nerds/reviewers going crazy with everything from how perfect the middle montage was and how impeccable the editing was to how well structured the screenplay was. It is also very watchable for a general audience who’s not into analysing films and film theory. I’d say it’s a great film but the underlying “message” isn’t profound and has been done to death (Gosford Park; upstairs downstairs thing repping income inequality) etc. But filmmaking isn’t about the underlying message alone but the technical aspects etc and I trust the reviewers have it right when they’re so unanimous in saying he’s at genius level.

      • PPP says:

        I think what’s interesting about this movie, the grand point it makes, is all of this is caused not by poor people tangling with rich people, but poor people hurting other poor people to get a piece of the pie. You see poor-on-poor hostility throughout the film in the corners and background– the pizza box people lording it over them and then being pissy when the family goes to eat there, the piss-fights, etc. I see rich v. poor all the time. I rarely see it pointed out that hierarchies incentivize the people below to fight each other, which just consolidates power at the top. It’s not until the end that the family… well, I won’t spoil it.

  4. Grant says:

    I’m glad that he did because he made history. I haven’t seen Parasite yet but I LOVED Snowpiercer. What a fantastic film that one was, with great performances from Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and Octavia Spencer. It just goes to show you what a fantastic director Bong Joon truly is.

  5. MellyMel says:

    Totally deserved! Glad he’s back home.

  6. A says:

    I feel like this is an excellent example of how Oscar campaigning can be done well. It should be about getting recognition for the film, for the talent on the film, for the hard work that the people who worked on it have done. Bong Joon-Ho is a household name, which is exactly as it should be, because his work merits that. The campaign has put a perspective that’s not ordinarily seen in America in focus, and people have realized that holy sh-t, we can actually relate to it. We can relate to these stories from cultures and nations halfway across the world, even though there’s a language barrier and everything else.

    There should be more work that’s done to bring films like these into the American public consciousness, if you ask me. It doesn’t even have to be prestige film from around the world. Even the mediocre stuff is worth watching, because it has valuable insight. And the nice thing about stuff like film is that you don’t have to understand the language to understand the story. People will always find ways to relate to what they see on the screen, even if they don’t understand the words. That’s what a good film should do.

  7. Sarah says:

    Just today someone was telling me that they watching this at the weekend and although I scare VERY easily I’m dying to find out what all the fuss is about. Maybe I need to give it a go.

  8. Charfromdarock says:

    That’s sweet! It must be such an incredible feeling to bring home the awards.

    I wish I wasn’t such a scaredy cat, I am too afraid to watch the movie.

  9. stem says:

    Did anyone wonder who that lady giving the 2nd 1/2 acceptance speech for Best Picture was? That’s Miky Lee, whose grandfather founded Samsung. She is a billionaire and was a trust fund baby from birth. She’s also been a champion of soft power / SK culture / SK film industry, using her privilege and money to help the industry. On Twitter they were commenting how ironic it was that chaebol money and privilege funded Parasite. SKoreans are very a patriotic and talented bunch and it’s good to see them shining globally. I am about to go out and grab some of those two noodle flavours to see what ram-don, aka jjapaguri, tastes like.