Award-winning Korean director and man of the moment Bong Joon-ho dominated headlines earlier this week after claiming four academy awards for his biting class-warfare film Parasite, which made history as the first foreign-language film ever to win best picture.
It’s all well and good to admire Joon-ho for breaking barriers in the film industry, creating beautiful cinematic art and bringing talented Asian actors to our frustratingly white theater screens. But we believe he’s even more than that—a 2020 hero if you will.
Here’s why he should be yours.
Bong Joon-ho stood up to Harvey Weinstein
Women (and some men too, we imagine) around the country are watching Harvey Weinstein on trial right now, seeing the man whose alleged actions were so atrocious they unleashed a storm of accusations and complains about sexual assault and misconduct across the world, hide behind a female lawyer and a walker.
“Is there no one left to champion justice?” Women are wondering, probably.
Bong Joon-ho is!
In an interview with Vulture late last year, the director shared a story about working with Weinstein on his film Snowpiercer, of which Weinstein had bought the distribution rights in 2012. The film is a unique hybrid depicting a class rebellion set in a sci-fi dystopia. It presents as a slick Hollywood action movie, but the themes delve deeper than your modern, omnipresent comic book flick.
Weinstein wanted to cut 25 minutes and to have more action. “It was a doomed encounter,” Joon-ho said. The two men of cinema fought back and forth, with Joon-ho having a hard time deterring Harvey. “Weinstein’s nickname is ‘Harvey Scissorhands,'” he said. He wanted to cut out dialogue and cut a major scene involving gutting a fish. Without these, Joon-ho felt his film would become incoherent.
But finally he came up with an idea. “Harvey hated it. Why fish? We need action!” Bong remembers. “I had a headache in that moment: What do I do? So suddenly, I said, ‘Harvey, this shot means something to me.’”
“Oh, Bong? What?” Bong-as-Harvey booms.
“It’s something personal,” Bong replies. “My father was a fisherman. I’m dedicating this shot to my father.”
Weinstein relents immediately: “You should have said something earlier, Bong! Family is the most important. You have the shot.”
“I said, ‘Thank you,’” Bong says, laughing. “It was a f***ing lie. My father was not a fisherman.”
“It was a f***ing lie. My father was not a fisherman.”
He called the Oscars local
Much fuss has been made this awards season about the ascendancy of Parasite. “‘Parasite’ Oscar win raises hopes of new era for Korean film” read one headline, “‘Parasite’ Winning Best Picture is a Powerful Reminder to Americans of the 1 Thing We’re Missing Out On” reads another.
But Bong Joon-ho is almost bored by this coverage. In the same Vulture interview, Joon-ho says as much.
“I ask what he thinks of the fact that no Korean film has ever been nominated for an Oscar despite the country’s outsize influence on cinema in the past two decades,” writes E. Alex Jung.
“It’s a little strange, but it’s not a big deal,” Bong Joon-ho says, shrugging. “The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”
“The Oscars are not an international film festival. They’re very local.”
He tries to mostly drink coffee and not meet a lot of people
Stars, they’re not like us, despite what Us Weekly wants us to believe. But Bong Joon-ho might actually be like us.
In an interview with the Telegraph Review, Joon-ho shared that his creative secret is to “try to maintain a very simple lifestyle.”
“Drink coffee, write, and try not to meet a lot of people.”
Strong life advice from Bong Joon-ho in today’s @Telegraph Review: pic.twitter.com/sWsMQiNZoY
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) February 8, 2020
He wondered aloud if Hollywood could read
At the Golden Globes, Parasite won an award for best foreign-language film. Joon-ho graciously accepted the award, saying “Just being nominated along with fellow, amazing international filmmakers was a huge honor. I think we use only one language: the cinema.”
Except actually, we speak many languages in this world. There are in fact roughly 6,500 spoken languages across the planet, although blockbuster films are nearly always in English.
Bong Joon-ho went on to muse on that fact, saying: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”
He reacted the same way any of us would have, immediately upon receiving more than one statuette, no matter how iconic those statuettes are
This is basically the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes this morning which seems auspicious pic.twitter.com/F51r2pT3Oj
— Jess Zimmerman (@j_zimms) February 10, 2020
See also: Oscars Diversity Missing From 2020 Ceremony
“Parasite” Makes History at the Oscars