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As ‘Parasite’ astounds audiences, SBIFF honors director Bong Joon Ho

Bong Joon-ho at SBIFF
Bong Joon-ho is nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars for his work on "Parasite" (Ryan Fish/KEYT Photo)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Some American movie fans may not know his name yet, but South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s work behind the camera is getting worldwide acclaim.

“I think he’s a maestro in directing,” movie fan Deborah Cristobal said. “A genius.”

With multiple Oscar nominations in hand for his new film “Parasite,” Bong was honored as “Outstanding Director of the Year” by the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Arlington Theatre on Thursday night. 

“I’m very honored to be recognized as the director of the year,” Bong said through a interpreter. “It’s my first time so I’m very surprised. Huge honor. Such a beautiful theatre.”

Bong also worked on “Parasite” as a writer and producer. The comedy-thriller follows a poor family scheming to become employees for a wealthy family. It is racking up awards and impressing audiences around the world.

“Quiet and elegant and it sneaks up on you, really, literally,” Cristobal said. “And the ending is just a surprise. Such a shock.”

Hundreds, perhaps even more than a thousand people lined up outside Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre Thursday afternoon, just for a free screening of the movie. Only about half of them were able to fit inside. 

“We got here at 2 o’clock because I knew this was the major hit of the Film Festival and the line would be all the way to State Street,” Andrea Pullman said.

“We heard that this was famous, the movie was famous, but we didn’t know there was gonna be like a thousand people here,” said Daniel Lee, in line with fellow UCSB student and South Korean native Hojun Lee. “It is quite amazing, seeing a movie from your home country be such famous and award-winning here.”

Bong was scheduled to do a Q&A after the screening at the Lobero, but that was canceled so he could accept the award at the Arlington instead.

‘Parasite’ is getting buzz in the U.S. that many foreign films never get. Bong says movie fans who overlook those films are missing out.

“The American film industry is huge,” he said through a translator. “As there’s such great films in the U.S. and I fully understand that you can spend a full year just enjoying American films. But if you reach out and really delve into foreign cinema, you’ll be introduced to the vast ocean of many more great films. All you need is to just add in subtitles.”

“Parasite” is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. Bong is nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. 

Article Topic Follows: Entertainment
Santa Barbara international film festival

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Ryan Fish

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