Park Chan-wook: “Parasite”, “Squid Game” helped Korean filmmakers

The Decision to Leave director credited both projects with opening doors for Korean filmmakers.

Park Chan-wook had a great week in Cannes, winning Best Director for his new procedural film, Decision to Leave. The ‘Oldboy’ author also gave movie lovers a hint at some of his upcoming projects, which if he has his way will include a Western, a sci-fi film and a remake of Costa-Gavras’ The Axe.

The most renowned festival in the world has always been open to the work of the South Korean auteur filmmaker, but in recent years films from his homeland have been increasingly represented in Cannes. Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite memorably won the Palme d’Or in 2019 before moving on to a big Oscar win, culminating in a historic win for Best Picture.

Although Park was making acclaimed films well before Bong’s Parasite breakthrough, the director is excited to see more Korean films gaining international recognition. In an interview with Variety, he praised the impact Parasite has had on the film industry.

“Parasite” was a pivotal moment. It was a historic event,” Park said. “You could even categorize movies before ‘Parasite’ and after ‘Parasite.’ So I think the film has a very special place in history not only in the history of Korean cinema but also in the history of non-English film.”

While “Parasite” opened a big door for South Korean filmmakers, “Squid Game” blew them off their hinges. Hwang Dong-hyuk’s blockbuster series quickly became the most-watched Netflix series of all time, prompting the streamer to significantly increase its investment in Korean content.

“And of course ‘Squid Game,'” he said. “Through this content, through these films and now in the TV series, the directors can bring non-English language films much closer to a wider audience around the world.”

In addition to the special boost Korean filmmakers got from Parasite and Squid Game, foreign filmmakers are enjoying another way to reach a wider audience: streaming. While Park is yet to do a project for a major streaming service, he commended them for the opportunities they’ve created.

“It definitely has its benefits and merits, especially for directors who create non-English language content,” he said of streaming. “But that doesn’t mean the director has to make original content or original films for this platform. He or she can definitely bring his previous work with him [and] feature-length films to this streaming platform to reach a wider audience.”

While he clearly has a soft spot for traditional theatrical releases, Park is willing to use any opportunity to tell his own stories. He doesn’t particularly care about the differences between film, television and streaming.

“Platforms don’t matter to me,” he said. “I will continue to discover and tell the stories best suited to each platform.”

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Lindsay Lowe

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