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Opinion

Parasite

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

Hollywood has gone international.

With South Korean thriller Parasite sweeping top awards at this year’s Oscars, including best film, best director and best cinematography, has a precedent been set? Will non-English movies from all countries (as long as there are English subtitles) now be considered at every Academy Awards, and not just for best foreign movie?

That will make the Oscars similar to international film festivals such as the one in Cannes, where Parasite also bagged the Palme d’Or last year. If the Oscars will pass judgment on foreign movies for all the major award categories, wouldn’t foreign film critics also want a say in the selection process?

Last year’s Oscars pick for best foreign language movie, Alfonso Cuaron’s lovely Mexican drama Roma, was also a candidate for Best Picture. The Academy Awards may be open to the idea of making its selection body internationally inclusive.

If that happens, the choices are likely to be similar to the winners in Cannes. The films will be critically acclaimed, but commercial hits may be rare. Parasite, however, has done well at the box office.

Oh well, no one said the Oscars should pick only critically acclaimed blockbusters made in Hollywood. Even the awards bodies are evolving, finding their way through the rapidly changing film production environment.

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There is an ongoing debate on how much of movies featured on Netflix should be included in the Oscars. If they are not shown in cinemas, should they be considered movies or TV shows? Television has its own award-giving body.

The film-streaming Netflix has changed our concepts of movies. From full-length feature films that run for an average of an hour and 30 minutes up to over two hours, which we watched in cinemas, we can now enjoy in the comfort of our homes movies presented in serials of about 45 minutes to an hour.

The Oscars are cautiously bringing in Netflix films: Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, with a powerhouse cast led by Robert de Niro and Al Pacino, was among the entries that Parasite beat for best picture.

But The Irishman is a mini series that had a limited theater release. I’ve enjoyed longer serials on Netflix, such as Narcos, Vikings and Outlander. How short should a film be to qualify for an Oscar best picture?

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Apart from the length of the film, there’s the quality itself. My mother is a big fan of Korean movies and telenovelas, but she fell asleep after the first 10 minutes of Parasite. I told her it starts slow but picks up pace. The movie was shown in Manila last year but I don’t think it was a box office hit here. After its Oscar win, my mother says she might take a second look, although she notes that another South Korean movie, Yeon Sang-ho’s 2016 zombie hit Last Train from Busan, was hands down more enjoyable.

Fans have marveled that Parasite was made with few repeat takes. The movie still cost about $11.4 million to make, but the relatively low production budget should make Best Director Bong Joon-ho a darling of movie producers who must keep an eye on the bottom line.

It should also inspire our local filmmakers who want to produce quality movies at relatively low cost that can be commercially successful.

The South Koreans have been quite aggressive in developing their creative industries. OK, the South Koreans are quite aggressive and put their hearts fully into much of what they do. Considering that much of the stuff they put out aren’t in English and their language isn’t spoken by over a billion people, like Mandarin or Hindu or Spanish, the global reach of their entertainment industry has been astounding.

Their K-pop performers, whether they’re singing in English or their native tongue, have attained global renown and are big in the Philippines. South Korean rapper Psy of “Gangnam Style” fame, although now seen as a one-hit wonder, is the first performer to garner a billion YouTube views.

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The guys behind TBA Studios, producers of mega hits such as biopic Heneral Luna, told us last year on One News’ “The Chiefs” that technology has made it easier to produce movies and create special effects – although the cost of special effects needed to produce something like Avatar or Black Panther can still be astronomical.

Parasite, however, doesn’t even employ any unusual special effects.

This is part of the evolution of the movie industry – one that the Philippines has yet to fully develop.

As in other industries, we have enough movie production talent and are even exporting them. Filipinos are employed in some of the biggest film studios in Hollywood and were part of Peter Jackson’s team in New Zealand that gave the world The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.

One thing that the Oscars sweep of Parasite has done is raise hopes that a similar achievement is possible for films from other countries. Especially in the Philippines, which has been described as a country that spent 300 years in a Spanish convent followed by 50 years of Hollywood.

We’re all hoping for a Parasite soon from the Philippines.

PARASITE
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