Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) on Hollywood’s Response to Anti-Asian Violence

Filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (Parasite) on Hollywood’s Response to Anti-Asian Violence

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho poses during a press conference in Seoul on February 19, 2020 - Getty - H 2020

Bong Joon Ho
Oscar-winning filmmaker Bong Joon Ho said he’s been watching the wave of Anti-Asian hate and violent incidents across the United States, and he believes Hollywood can respond by being unafraid to tell bold stories that tackle the issues as a way to create change.

“I’m far away in Korea and I have to see everything in the news from an outsider’s perspective, 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,” the Parasite filmmaker said Thursday night during an appearance as the guest speaker featured on the latest installment of Chapman University’s Dodge College virtual Master Class series. “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 cited Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing as an example, adding that he recently watched it again on Blu-Ray. “That film came out in 1989,” he noted. “It was three years before the L.A. Riots but almost predicted the riots were going to happen. That’s the role creators and artists can play, not necessarily to predict what will happen in society but to use your insight to portray the issues that are currently boiling underneath the surface of society that can 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?’”

He continued: “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.”

The filmmaker was the latest high-profile Hollywood insider to have appeared as part of Chapman’s Dodge College Master Class series, following Bryan Cranston, Frank Marshall, Jason Blum, Lena Waithe, and former Warner Bros. communications executive Dee Dee Myers. Bong weighed in on a number of subjects by offering advice on how to stay focused while trying to break into the industry, using camera movement to tell a story and the hot button topic of movie theaters vs. streaming.

Of the latter, Bong said it has become trendy to consider theaters as relics from another time but he doesn’t subscribe to that notion. “I still believe in the overwhelming strength and power that theaters have. Last year, there was this anecdote where Martin Scorsese asked his physician if he watched The Irishman and the physician answered that he had been watching 10 minutes of the film every day. But I actually went to a theater in Seoul to watch the full three hours and was unable to press the stop button. I really remember feeling moved after those whole three hours and theater cinemas are still the only way that lets you access that kind of experience.”