The South Korean filmmaker spoke at a Chapman University master class series and expressed his view on the role filmmakers play when it comes to tackling social issues

By Salina Tsegai
April 12, 2021 02:33 PM
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Bong Joon-ho, winner of the Original Screenplay, International Feature Film, Directing, and Best Picture awards for “Parasite,” poses in the press room during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California
Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty

With the rise of anti-Asian violence in the United States, Parasite director Bong Joon Ho wants Hollywood to take a bolder approach to confronting social issues.

The four-time Oscar winner, 51, spoke at Chapman University's Dodge College Master Class series last Thursday about the concerning rise in anti-Asian hate and violence in the U.S., and said the film industry has the potential to question society and confront its issues through movies.

"I'm far away in Korea and I have to see everything in the news from an outsider's perspective," the filmmaker said, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter, "but as someone who is a part of mankind, as a person, it's quite fearful to watch the hate crimes against Asian-Americans and the BLM movement."

Writer-director Bong Joon-ho, winner of the Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, and International Feature Film awards for "Parasite," attends the 92nd Annual Academy Awards Governors Ball at Hollywood and Highland on February 09, 2020 in Hollywood, California
Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty

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After a gunman killed eight people in Georgia — six of them Asian women — at three separate massage parlors, a recent report issued by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino was released and showed a surge in violence against Asian Americans emerge last year as COVID-19 cases increased in March and April.

The director continued, "Creating a film takes a lot of time and a lot of money; it's a big unit that can't really respond quickly to issues that are currently happening in society. … But ironically, because of that, creators and filmmakers can be bolder with dealing with issues and they shouldn't be afraid to confront them."

Bong said his 2019 film Parasite, which scored a number of nominations and wins during awards season last year (including an Oscar for Best Picture), was similar to Spike Lee's 1989 comedy-drama Do The Right Thing because it didn't merely portray current society, but society's underlying issues that could "explode later on."  

"For me, Parasite was a film where I tried to take that approach … [the film] talks about the haves and have-nots of our current society. It began with a question of 'what does it mean to be poor or rich in our current times?'" Bong explained.

Bong Joon-Ho, Spike Lee
Credit: Gotham/FilmMagic; Frazer Harrison/Getty

Bong encouraged creators to approach their work similarly. "As creators and artists, you sort of have to see through the essence and the central questions in our society through the days that you live through and send a reply to those questions through your work."

Parasite, the first foreign film to win Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, centered on the consequential entanglement of two families — one rich and one poor — and was praised for successfully portraying issues like social inequality, wealth disparity and class.