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At the recently concluded 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, Parasite became the first South Korean feature movie to win the Academy Awards for the Best International Feature Film and Best Picture, while the movie director, Bong Joon Ho, won the Oscar award for Best Director.
Parasite pulled a feat that many African movies failed to do or are not quite capable of doing due to some key factors we’ll be examining in this article. Also in this article, we’ll be discussing and revealing what made Parasite a huge success at the Oscars and what African Movies can learn from the whole event.
Parasite won because of the massive appeal it gained beyond its borders. The movie was a testament to the rarest of creative film-making by its creators.
This creativity drew audiences across the globe by the droves. And when those viewers saw Parasite, it didn’t fail to deliver as it was funny, scary, violent and most importantly, it was relatable no matter the part of the world you are from.
Coincidentally, this year, Parasite was in luck as there were some changes in the diversity of the Academy members and voters in terms of race, gender and age.
For years, the US and the world in general have been clamoring for a diverse Academy. That effort might have finally paid off as the Academy is gradually changing from a white privileged sect to a body that is more receptive to diversity.
This played greatly in the favour of Parasite as the creators of Parasite made sure the movie was done entirely in the local Korean language. Staying true to itself kept the originality of the movie intact which in turn was basically what the Academy was looking for this year in its Best International Feature Film Award winner.
As proponents of story here at AMDB.tv, we believe that another reason why Parasite saw huge success at the Oscars was its amazing story about class which resonated with everyone across the globe who saw the movie.
Because, who doesn’t understand class? That despite the fact that we try to tout our belief in a world where everyone is equal, the sad truth is that we are all segregated, cut, diced, piled into different classes, sects, factions, tribes and races and there is nothing equal about the world.
Parasite, being set in a classical Korean society, wielded a story of class rivalry and the difficulties middle-class families encounter. The strength of Parasite’s story helped it win over the other contenders like Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
Additionally, the huge support Parasite got from its audience was also a contributing factor towards winning both the Best Picture and the Best International Feature Film awards.
Parasite did not only employ aggressive marketing via its distributor Neon, the movie had a loyal fan base who advertised the movie via word-of-mouth and overnight, Parasite became a global sensation and gained a cult following.
If African filmmakers are to take anything away from the 92nd Academy Awards ceremony, it’s the need to focus more on making movies that appreciate the identity, language and uniqueness of being African while still acknowledging the universality of our humanity.
It should be noted that the ensemble cast of Parasites were all local Korean actors who spoke Korean throughout the movie.
One of the reasons why the Nigerian movie, Lionheart, was disqualified after its submission for the Best International Feature Film category was the fact that the movie was entirely done in English with little snippets of the indigenous Ibo language.
According to the organizing body of the Academy Awards, for a movie to be considered for the Best International Feature Film category, it has to have at least 40 minutes of the local dialect spoken in the movie. Lionheart had a measly 11 minutes.
Again, we cannot reiterate the importance of story. African movies need to tell African stories in a way the rest of the world can also understand.
Consider the movie, Papicha which was also submitted for the Best International Feature Film category but didn’t make it into the nominees’ list despite being one of the best movies out of Africa in 2019.
Many speculate that its topic on the Islamic Government control over Algeria in the 1990’s wasn’t universal enough.
Movies that focus on one side of the divide usually don’t do too well at the Oscars. Remember how good Passion of the Christ was? Now, remember how badly it did at the Oscars despite its nominations. Certain stories just don’t do well at the Oscars and Papicha was no different.
Other than that, can we sincerely look at the movies that were submitted by the various African countries and compare them to Corpus Christi, Pain and Glory, Honeyland, Parasite and Les Misérables?
African filmmakers have to understand that a film is not done after the last shoot. You have to tell people about your movie. This is not a Field of Dreams scenario where if you build it, they will come.
African movies need to be promoted and not just 2 weeks to the release of the movie. The power of early promotion cannot be overlooked as Parasite proved this by engaging in early press conferences, festivals and other marketing campaigns.
It’s no wonder that the movie went places, touched and moved audience, gained a huge fan base of supporters and ultimately got the outstanding support when it mattered.
African filmmakers should learn to set aside a budget for early promotion. They should take advantage of the various medium out there to create awareness for their films which may include social media, advertising on film websites and blogs, film festivals etc.
The Oscars is not the best judge of quality films; some of the best films out there do not have an Oscar to their name. But the Oscar Nominated/Oscar Winner phrase is not a bad deal to have emblazoned on the poster of a filmmaker’s next project. After all, the world can’t seem to resist the shine of an award.
Once again, congratulations to Parasite for winning the Oscars for Best Picture and Best International Feature film in 2020. It is a brilliant movie and deserves all the wins it got. As for African movies, we hope for better luck next year.
Tell us in the comment section what you think about African movies and how they can do better at the next Oscars.