By Kendra Sommers
With history being made at the Oscars, it is almost surprising that Parasite was the first non-English language film to be awarded with “Best Picture” in the 92 years the Oscars has been around.
Parasite also won in other categories including “Directing,” “International Feature Film,” and “Writing (Original Screenplay).” Director Bong Joon Ho had also previously won at the Golden Globes earlier this year where he said in his acceptance speech through a translator, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
And while the obstacle of subtitles proved to be less of a barrier at the Oscars in 2020, this hasn’t always been the case. More frequently than not, international entertainment goes unrecognized by the Academy and its corresponding award shows.
While Hollywood has remained the oldest and most successful (monetarily) film industry in the world, other nations have increasingly flourishing film industries that go unnoticed, especially during award seasons.
Besides the category for “Best International Feature Film,” since the Oscars beginning in 1927, only 24 non-English speaking films have won Academy Awards in any of the other categories.
Two additional winners can be added to this list for films that were originally in a foreign language, but were dubbed in English including Spirited Away, originally in Japanese, winning “Best Animated Feature” in 2002, and March of the Penguins, originally in French, winning “Best Documentary Feature” in 2005.
Despite other international film industries having similar caliber and success as Americas, their films are dramatically and disproportionately unrecognized.
China’s film industry made over $9 billion in 2018, just under America’s nearly $12 billion. It is expected that in 2020, China’s film industry will surmount to the “world’s largest cinema market,” as they continue to expand. Despite China’s immense success worldwide, they have only won one Oscar in 2000 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for Best Art Direction Cinematography Music.
India as well has one of the biggest film industries in the world, with a massive audience and consist releases. However, no Indian film has ever won an Oscar.
The Los Angeles Times conducted a study in 2012 on the demographics of the Academy and who was included in the voting for these “prestigious” awards. Their results concluded that, “Oscar voters were 94% Caucasian and 77% male. African-Americans made up only 3% of the total, Latinos and Asians even less.”
Efforts in recent years have been made by Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson to include more diversity within the Academy voters, including more racial diversity, more women, more foreign filmmakers and more younger members. While this is a start, there is still much revision needed to ensure that more diverse thought is included, since the Academy still is only 31% women and 16% non-Caucasian.
This issue is not exclusive to just the film industry. This is seen in most forms of entertainment, including TV shows and music. Artists around the world are not being recognized simply because they are not in English.
And maybe the problem is that these award shows are arbitrary, but Parasite received a jump in box office tickets this past weekend after winning Best Picture – so these awards do have an impact. Needless to say, the idea of “good” entertainment is changing and as the audience, we should broaden our own horizons and view films that we may not normally seek out.