At the 2020 Academy Awards, Parasite (2019) made history as the first foreign film to ever win Best Picture, posing a brighter future for many international movies that fail to receive recognition among the wider American audience. Parasite’s win caused a momentary shift in this pattern, prompting many to explore unfamiliar titles and have a greater appreciation for non-domestic and non-English language cinema.
Western production companies caught on to Parasite’s popularity, however, with HBO almost immediately picking it up to remake into a limited series. While many were excited, others criticized it, ultimately posing the question: why remake a masterpiece?
Apparently, international films can’t be truly enjoyed as is and require a Western “makeover” to be stomached by the wider American audience. As negative as it may sound, the onset of US remakes is proving this statement more and more right, not only hindering representation, but also contributing to the idea that international cinema is somehow “inferior”.
Recently, it was announced that Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan, a successful South Korean zombie flick, was being remade into an English-language version with Warner Bros set to distribute. Only released in 2016, this film garnered critical acclaim and was available to stream on Netflix originally, and now Prime Video.
This film is recent, accessible, successful, and loved by fans – all traits making it an unnecessary film to be remade. But so was The Intouchables (2011), Oldboy (2003), and Miss Bala (2011) – with the list going on. And what do all of these films have in common?
They all have US remakes of course.
Whether the reason for these remakes is to be in the English language without subtitles or solely for production companies to make money, it’s still an issue that the original films don’t get the recognition they deserve. If production companies wanted to make money and English-language films, then it’s not hard to just make their own original, blockbuster movies.
While there’s the issue of US remakes, another recent issue has risen, prompted by the Golden Globes placing Minari (2020) – an American film – in the Foreign-Language Film category.
On Twitter, Elika Sadeghi points out that “Not only was Minari filmed entirely in the US, the whole story takes place in America, is about life in America, was written and directed by an American, produced by an American company and… *America has no official language*”.
Minari was deemed a “Foreign-Language” film by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because it was in over 50% Korean dialogue. However, it was widely pointed out that Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) was primarily in German and French and set in Germany, but was still nominated in the Best Picture – Drama category.
Inglourious Basterds was not subject to special rules like Minari was, which presents an ever-present prejudice against films that 1) not in the English language, and 2) are about non-white experiences.
With many Award shows hoping to diversify their nominees, hopefully there will no longer be the need for special categories that distinguish non-American films and instead, just recognize films as they are. Maybe more international films would receive the appreciation they deserve.
Leaving you off with the wise words of Bong Joon-ho: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.