Bong Joon-ho: AAPI Heritage Month Filmmaker Highlights

On this day in AAPI Heritage Month, we celebrate Korea's leading filmmaker, and multiple Academy Award winner, Bong Joon-ho.

Chuck Walton

By Chuck Walton

Bong Joon-ho AAPI Heritage Month The Oscars

Photo By: Elizabeth Goodenough/Everett Collection

Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is celebrated by the AAPI community and movie lovers around the world. His 2019 film "Parasite" won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best International Feature Film. But that's just the beginning.

How You Know Him

His films represent a cinema lover's dream. "Parasite" is his latest genre bender. It combines elements of the surreal with black comedy, social themes and heightened drama. It's his most acclaimed work. But he's also well-known for fantasy-adventure "Okja" (2017); sci-fi thriller "Snowpiercer (2013); and monster movie "The Host" (2006).

©Magnolia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

©Magnolia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

"Parasite" won the "Palme d'Or, top prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also the first film not in English to win Best Picture at the Oscars. Technically, Bong Joon-ho is Asian, not Asian American or Pacific Islander. However, he's a true inspiration for AAPIs. His acclaim has led to millions learning more about Bong's Korean roots.

His Life So Far

Bong was born in Daegu, South Korea, in 1969. His father taught design, and his mother raised Bong and his three older siblings. After a compulsory two-year service in the military, young Bong returned to college in 1992, and started a film club.

Bong completed a two-year program at the Korean Academy of Film Arts. He then spent a lot of the '90s working in various roles on other filmmakers' works.

He debuted as a director with "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (2000). The film's about a university lecturer who kidnaps his neighbor's dog. It received some acclaim, and led to Bong's second film, "Memories of Murder" (2003). "Murder" tells the real-life story of a serial killer who terrorized a rural town in the 1980s.

Bong's next film "The Host" (2006) launched the filmmaker to international acclaim. The story involves a monster rising out of the Han River to attack the citizens of Seoul and even more so one family. The movie was a major hit in South Korea, and created world-wide buzz for the director.

Bong's fourth film "Mother" (2009) also won widespread acclaim. Subsequently, he started work on his first English-language film, "Snowpiercer" (2013). The sci-fi thriller stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, and Ed Harris. It's a tale about the last members of humanity who survive a climate change catastrophe. After that, they all live together on a fast-moving train circling the globe. Action and social drama co-mingle in this commercial and critical hit.

Next, Bong made "Okja" (2017), an original story about a young girl who raises a genetically modified super pig. Themes of environmentalism mix with fantasy to winning affect. "Okja" debuted on Netflix and was another success which expanded Bong's global fanbase.

© Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection

© Netflix /Courtesy Everett Collection

The Movie to See

"Parasite" (watch the trailer here) is a culmination of the director's filmography, combining his storytelling talent with a unique movie about social class. It's a drama. But it's funny. It's grounded in reality. Yet it takes flights of fancy. Above all, it's an incredible motion picture made by an incredible filmmaker.

© Neon / courtesy Everett Collection

© Neon / courtesy Everett Collection

What's Up Next

The filmmaker is currently working on two scripts. One is an action-horror set in Seoul. Another is an English film based on a real 2016 event. He'll also helm a dramatic Korean animation. That one involves humans and deep-sea animals. Per usual, original filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, icon for AAPI artists, continues to expand his boundaries.

About the Author

Chuck Walton

Chuck Walton

Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.

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