South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s raucous social satire “Parasite,” about a poor family of hustlers who find jobs with a wealthy family, won the Cannes Film Festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or, on Saturday. The win for “Parasite” marks the first Korean film to ever win the Palme.
In the festival’s closing ceremony, jury president Alejandro Inarritu said the choice had been “unanimous” for the nine-person jury. The festival ended Saturday after 11 days of previews of new films and documentaries. The genre-mixing film, Bong’s seventh, had arguably been celebrated more than others at Cannes this year, hailed by critics as the best yet from the 49-year-old director of “Snowpiercer” and “Okja.”
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the cinema in Korea this year. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Korean cinema, I think the Cannes Film Festival has offered me a very great gift,” Bong told reporters after the ceremony. It was the second straight Palme victory for an Asian director. Last year, the award went to Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters,” also a compassionate parable about an impoverished family. “We shared the mystery of the unexpected way this film took us through different genres, speaking in a funny, humorous and tender way of no judgement of something so relevant and urgent and so global,” Inarritu told reporters after the ceremony. Many of the awards were given to social and political stories that depicted geopolitical dramas in localized tales, from African shores to Paris suburbs. The festival’s second place award, the Grand Prize, went to French-Senegalese director Mati Diop’s feature-film debut, “Atlantics.” The film by Diop, the first black female director ever in competition in Cannes, views the migrant crisis from the perspective of Senegalese women left behind after many young men flee by sea to Spain. Sylvester Stallone presented the honor. Although few quibbled with the choice of “Parasite,” some had expected Cannes to make history by giving the Palme to a female filmmaker for just the second time. Celine Sciamma’s period romance “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” was the Palme pick for many critics this year. Instead, Sciamma ended up with best screenplay. In the festival’s 72-year history, only Jane Campion has won the prize in 1993 for “The Piano,” tying with Chen Kaige’s “Farewell My Concubine.”