The Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented its Outstanding Director of the Year Award to celebrated South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho on Thursday evening at the Arlington Theatre.
The recognition was given for Bong’s six-time Oscar-nominated film “Parasite,“ which very recently made history at the SAG Awards for the first-ever foreign language film to win Best Ensemble.
“Parasite” has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Production Design.
SBIFF honored the director with a daylong career retrospective, culminating in the evening tribute.
At a free showing of the film earlier in the afternoon at a packed Lobero Theatre, SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling said, “This was my favorite movie in 2019. Director Ho will be only the fourth recipient to receive this solo honor in the festival’s history.”
Joining the acclaimed director on the red carpet, and later as the presenter of the Outstanding Director of the Year Award, was South Korean actress Jeong-eun Lee, who portrayed the character Moon-gwang in “Parasite.”
“To be nominated for an Oscar with legends like Tarantino and Scorsese, who I have admired all my life, is such an honor,” he said. “I feel like I have already won the award.”
The low-key Q&A with accompanying film clips was moderated by Scott Feinberg, who noted that this was the fifth year he handled the SBIFF director’s award and panels. Interpreter Sharon Choi assisted during the interview.
“Tonight we are honoring one of the most celebrated directors in the world right now,” Feinberg said. “'Parasite' is only his seventh feature film. It has grossed $140 million just in this country, and it's still counting.”
Bong said that the reason he got interested in filmmaking was that as a child, he loved to watch films on TV and never went outside.
“My family didn’t do sports or like to travel,” he said. “My mother was kind of a germophobe and didn’t allow me to go to a movie theater, so I was only allowed to watch movies at home on television.
“This was also a time when there was censorship of movies in South Korea, so scenes were omitted. As a result, I started developing my own cinematic language.”
His father was a university graphic design instructor. Although his films depict themes of poverty and great wealth, he said his family was “in the middle.”
Bong was a sociology major in college, but admitted to knowing very little about the field.
“I spent most of my time in a film club called the Yellow Door. My job was to manage the video collection, which meant illegally copying a lot of the Western classics. Hitchcock’s 'Psycho' was one of my favorites. At the Yellow Door, I made my first short film in 16mm.”
Clips were screened from the feature films that Bong later created, including “Memories of Murder,” “The Host,” “Mother” and “Parasite.” Other movies included “Barking Dogs Never Bite” (2000), “Snowpiercer” (2013) and “Okja” (2017).
The Outstanding Director of the Year Award has previously been presented to Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), Kathryn Bigelow (“Hurt Locker”), David Fincher (“Benjamin Button”) and David O'Russell (“American Hustle”).
The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues through Saturday.
For more information, contact SBIFF, 1528 Chapala St., Suite 203 in Santa Barbara, call 805.963.0023, or visit www.sbiff.org.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.