Bong Joon-ho's Dark and Devious 'Parasite' Has Taken Out the 2019 Sydney Film Festival Prize

Missed it at the festival? The exceptional Korean thriller will hit Aussie cinemas later this month.
Sarah Ward
Published on June 17, 2019

For the first time in history, Sydney Film Festival's Official Competition and the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or have been won by the same film: Bong Joon-ho's Parasite.

The final feature to screen as part of this year's SFF competition — and the recipient of rapturous audience applause after its first session in the State Theatre — the twisty family thriller took out 2019's $60,000 prize. Visiting Sydney for the second time in three years, after presenting Okja as the festival's closing night film back in 2017, Bong was on hand to receive the award.

"This festival is really amazing, especially the audience… really special and extraordinary," the South Korean filmmaker said in his response to the accolade. "This is the most meaningful prize for me — in this beautiful city and beautiful theatre, and one of the most beautiful audiences in the world."

A dark, devious, devastatingly smart and deceptively hilarious movie about two South Korean families — one struggling to get by, the other living in the lap of luxury — Parasite couldn't be a more deserving winner. From its slippery narrative that plays with several genres, to its exceptional performances from a cast led by Bong regular Song Kang-ho (The Host, Snowpiercer), to its scathing statement on class and its exquisite and astute production design, this tense, urgent and constantly surprising piece of cinema is one of the best films of the year so far.

Also, as Bong told the Sydney audience, it was inspired by the time the director spotted a smudge on his pants.

Selected by a jury consisting of Australian producer John Maynard (Jirga), Australian director Ana Kokkinos (Head On), Brazilian actor and filmmaker Wagner Moura (Marighella), New Zealand director Gaylene Preston (My Year with Helen), and Indian artist and filmmaker Ritu Sarin (The Sweet Requiem), Parasite emerged victorious in a hotly contested field — competing against Berlinale Golden Bear winner Synonyms, Oscar nominee Never Look Away, Pedro Almodovar's sumptuous Pain and Glory, the Tilda Swinton-starring The Souvenir, gentle New Zealand drama Bellbird and the Australian duo of Judy & Punch and Hearts and Bones, among others.

It joins an impressive list of previous SFF prizewinners, including The Heiresses (2018),  On Body and Soul (2017), Aquarius (2016), Arabian Nights (2015), Two Days, One Night (2014), Only God Forgives (2013), Alps (2012), A Separation (2011), Heartbeats (2010), Bronson (2009) and Hunger (2008).

Also receiving a gong at SFF's closing night was She Who Must Be Loved, a documentary about pioneering Indigenous figure Alfreda Glynn, which took out the Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary (a $10,000 prize). It's slated to hit NITV on Sunday, July 14 at 8.30pm.

Short film All These Creatures also nabbed the Dendy Live Action Short Award and the Rouben Mamoulian Award for Best Director, while fellow shorts Sohrab and Rustum and Ties That Bind picked up the Yoram Gross Animation Award and the Event Cinemas Australian Short Screenplay Award, respectively.

The 2019 Sydney Film Festival ran from June 5–16. If you missed Parasite at the festival, you'll be able to catch it at Australian cinemas from Thursday, June 27.

Published on June 17, 2019 by Sarah Ward
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