With the Oscars just around the corner, Awards Season is furiously fiddling its way to climax. There are so many awards going on right now it’s hard to keep track. I feel bad for Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, who keeps getting nominated for shit he’s probably never heard of before. I mean, this is a guy who gloriously shaded the Oscars by calling them “very local”. But still, he is dutifully making the rounds. Last week the African American Film Critics Association Awards were held, and Joon-ho accepted awards for best screenplay and best foreign film for Parasite. During his acceptance speech, Joon-ho gave a special shout out to Spike Lee for helping him learn how to curse in English. All I can say is thank GOD he didn’t learn it from watching Quentin Tarantino movies.
According to People, Joon-ho said that when he was a college student, his English wasn’t very good but he improved it by attending “illegal film festivals” and “unofficial screenings” where they had to create the sub-titles themselves. Subtitling Do The Right Thing and Jungle Fever opened his eyes to a whole new vocabulary.
“I came from a place very far away. I live in South Korea,” he began his speech, with the help of a translator. “On campus, we held several illegal film festivals where we would have unofficial screenings at local cinematheques. We would screen a lot of American indie films and create subtitles ourselves.”
“The movies I did subtitles for was Jungle Fever and Do the Right Thing,” the director added, which was met with a laugh from the crowd. “At the time, my English wasn’t that good, so subtitling it was quite an experience. I had no idea there was such various curse words in the English language. Thanks to Spike Lee, I learned so many things.”
Here’s Joon-ho’s speech.
Joon-ho also said that he met Spike once but was so star-struck he forgot to tell him what an impact he’d had on his ability to cuss someone out in English. He told the audience, “If I meet him again, I would love to tell him. If any of you are acquainted with him, please let him know.” I’m guessing 78 percent of that audience knows Spike, (we don’t all look alike, but we do all know each other) so he’s probably heard this story at least fifteen mother fucking times already.
I have to laugh imagining Joon-ho grappling with how to translate this white hot mess of American mumbo jumbo without a PhD in American History X.