Debut of Foreign Film in American Markets

Claire Hong

On February 9 of 2020, Parasite, directed by Bong Joon Ho, became the first Korean, let alone Asian film to have won the Original Screenplay Oscar. While many were ecstatic about such a first, there also came quite a bit of criticism, with many feeling the film didn’t deserve all the recognition it received. 

Parasite follows the story of the impoverished Kim family and the wealthy Park family, illustrating the deep class divide, discrimination, and greed rooted in Korean society, not so different to America. The unpredictable plot along with the well thought out cinematography earned Parasite and Bong Joon Ho the recognition they rightfully earned, in my opinion.

Of course, this wasn’t the case for everyone, and many felt the Oscar was undeserved. One woman that had voted as part of the Academy’s actors branch was reported by Insider to have said, “‘Parasite” was “beautifully done,” but added, “I don’t think foreign films should be nominated with the regular films,” seeming to suggest that “regular” films meant English-language films.” This remark was one of many, with people suggesting that foreign films had no right to claim an Oscar, whether or not the movie deserved it. 

This xenophobic and racist mindset has been a deepset problem within the American market for media and film, with countless people unwilling to watch a movie in another language claiming it takes too much effort to read the subtitles. Unfortunately, this does not stop the public from judging a movie without properly watching it. The amount of well made foreign films unable to enter the dominating American market has evidently been, in some ways or another, caused by the stigma around watching media and film in different languages or from different countries.

Senior Emelee Deleon remarks, “I also believe that the issue with people who refused to watch these shows and films to begin with, just have some preconceived notion that their country’s entertainment is somehow superior to that of other countries, because it is in a language they understand, and a lot of these issues are definitely rooted in xenophobia and have snowballed into a less intense version of that ignorance.”

Even more recently, Squid Game, a 9 episode show that is attracting worldwide recognition and fame, is also one of the few foreign films that garnered such a large amount of international popularity. Directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, the show reaches all over the world, where even kids from elementary schools were acting out the scenes and games. At one point in time, it was difficult to avoid seeing anything referencing Squid Game.

Squid Game portrays the desperation of a group of indebted Koreans, hoping to win the promised jackpot and create a new life for themselves. Not so different from Parasite, the capitalistic tendencies of Korea are illustrated through the greed and willingness of the participants to throw away morals to further themselves. The striking scenes of bloodied and fearful contestants playing cheerful and childlike games created a striking show.

There has not been a case of Asian or foreign films gaining such worldwide popularity, in America in specific, before Parasite and Squid Game

Senior Alma Olguin says, “I think they [foreign films] have become more popular because the American Industry these past few years has entered a slump. There is no involvement and the shows practically have the same plot.”

The willingness to watch foreign films now has without a doubt increased within even the past year, as people begin to realize and experience the world beyond their typical American market. Regardless of whether this newfound willingness comes from people sitting at home with nothing to do over quarantine, or the movements striving to fight racial and social injustice, with an open mind and some free time, discovering an incredibly developed movie or show isn’t so far out of reach. As long as you’re willing to reach out further than the comforts of a movie filmed in English, countless treasures remain unwatched and buried under the American market.