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The Bong effect; what happened to Diversity?

The Bong effect; what happened to Diversity?

Great to see a foreign language film and non-English speaking director garner mainstream adulation but it can’t be left at that…

By Sailesh Ram

BONG JOON HO’S quadruple triumph at the Oscars shouldn’t gloss over the wider difficulties faced by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) or similar institutions such as the British Academy of British Film & Television Arts (Bafta).

As they say, one swallow does not make a summer.

While the Oscars triumph of ‘Parasite’ should indeed be applauded, there is much work to be done on the issue of Diversity.

Members of both the Academy and Bafta must have a wider choice of films to view and while the former has made some effort towards increasing diversity among its membership, we’re not sure what Bafta is doing to address this issue.

Most of the people acv knows would say, not very much – but the outcry over the lack of Diversity has focused some minds and there have been strong words and action is being promised…So let’s see what happens now ahead of 2021.

Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Parasite‘ – a dark comic tale about inequality among other things

Bong’s win should be seen as a powerful moment – and his backstage speech (cut below) should remind us that the world of film can bring us together and foster global understanding and empathy.

It is indeed wonderful that a film like ‘Parasite‘ and a director such as Bong should break through and pack cinemas from Milton Keynes to Milwaukee, Mumbai and Mexico City to Seoul (in theory).

Bong was a little vague about his precise plans for future work after the Oscars – he said he is working on a Korean language film and another one in English.

The trade press has been reporting that the English film is still being written and will be set partly in the UK and the US. It is very early days, but Bong made it quite clear during press for ‘Parasite’ that he has no intention of doing a big US Hollywood studio film. And like all the best filmmakers said he wants to make original narrative features not Superhero films or sequels to successful franchises.

He is developing a TV series for HBO in the US, based on the characters from ‘Parasite’ and working with writer and producer Adam McKay, who is responsible for ‘Succession’ and won a writing screenplay Oscar for ‘The Big Short’. He originally had six hours of material for ‘Parasite’ and much of the excess can be poured into this TV series

It was revealed too this week that Bong will be in London and at the BFI Southbank to talk about his work with English actor Tilda Swinton, whose work will the subject of a retrospective season (March 1-18) next month. She is to be awarded a BFI Fellowship for her work. Swinton appeared in Bong’s film, ‘Okja (2017) and ‘Snowpiercer‘ (2013) which never got a UK release. Some sections of the programme are still be scheduled.

Bong Joon Ho guest edits film magazine

You can read more about Bong in the March edition of the film magazine Sight & Sound – he is the guest editor. Bong remembers reading the magazine as a film student – sometimes subversively as the publication wasn’t readily available in South Korea back in the day, as the Army ruled the roost there. He has chosen 20 directors to look out for – among them Jordan Peele (‘Get Out’) and Mati Diop (‘Atlantics’) sa as part of his guest editing duties.

Bong’s success shows you don’t have to be in Hollywood making films in English to prosper – and that the international film festival circuit and the mother of all film festivals Cannes is a still a great place to get noticed!

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture