Can foreign-language films ever win over Hollywood?

When South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho accepted the Golden Globe for best foreign-language film for his widely hailed “Parasite,” he urged moviegoers to “overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles.”

“You will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” he promised, reopening a debate that has long plagued Hollywood — can non-English films ever break into the US mainstream?

“Parasite,” a searing black comedy about class divisions, has earned six Oscar nominations, including for best picture and best director.


After the film captured the top prize from the Screen Actors Guild in a shock upset, some believe it could win big at the Academy Awards, but that would be history-making, indeed.

No non-English-language production has ever won the best picture Oscar.

For many, the subtitle barrier is more than an inch tall. It requires you to focus on the bottom of the screen, meaning you may miss key visuals. Others, however, say that subtitles invite an increased focus on a film.

In the end, English is the lingua franca in Hollywood and in the pivotal

North American market — making it the language of the awards season as well.

Fredell Pogodin — a veteran publicist who has worked to promote hundreds of movies, including the Oscar-winning foreign films “Roma,” “Mediterraneo” and “Koyla” — says the obstacle is not just the language; it’s the content.

“It’s not just because there are subtitles — they’re arty here, to begin with. They’re not mainstream,” Pogodin told AFP.

“There is a certain kind of audience for it. It’s generally more upscale,” she noted — meaning it is tough to convince the average American moviegoerto spe nd money on reading a film.


This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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