Following the success of Parasite last year, Asian films are getting a lot of attention at the Oscars.

HONG KONG, China — Last year’s Academy Awards success for director Bong Joon-biting ho’s social satire “Parasite” attracted unparalleled attention to a South Korean film and placed the global spotlight squarely on the Asian film industry.

Parasite, the first non-English language film to win Best Picture, was a worldwide hit, grossing $258 million at the box office. It’s debatable if the Asian film industry will live up to Parasite’s legacy almost a year later. Last March, just weeks after the Oscars, the Coronavirus hit, shutting down cinemas all over the world and bringing film production to a virtual halt.

“It hasn’t been a fantastic year,” said Geoffrey Wong, programme director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, “coming off the back of sweeping every award.” “From what I’ve seen so far on the list, there isn’t one standout film, but there are a lot of really good ones.”

Wong and his team have been sifting through international submissions in preparation for this year’s HKIFF, which will take place in person from April 1 to 12.

Wong said that bigger players in the industry are holding back releases in view of the pandemic, but there are still gems from newer filmmakers. “There are quite a number of young directors, very talented, maybe making their debuts, and that’s where some of the greatest work has been seen this past year,” he said.

On Feb. 9, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will release its shortlist for Best International Feature Film for the 2021 edition of the Oscars. That list has been expanded to 15 from 10, and will be drawn from a record 93 submissions.

Among box-office hits that have been submitted for the Oscars this year is “Better Days,” directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Tsang, which looks at the issue of bullying in school. The film took $237 million from the mainland Chinese market and won eight local awards.

From China itself, “Leap” has also done well, garnering $128 million in box-office receipts. The film, directed by Hong Kong’s Peter Chan and starring Gong Li, is based on stories about China’s national volleyball team over 40 years.

Apart from dramas, a notable submission is horror film “Impetigore” from Indonesia, directed by Joko Anwar. The tale of a village blighted by an ancient curse struck a chord with local audiences, and it toured international film festivals to much acclaim.

“As a filmmaker I am delighted to have my film submitted for Oscars consideration, to celebrate filmmaking especially during this hard times,” said Anwar. “Is it possible to be shortlisted? I really don’t know. But if it is, it would be a triumph for horror genre. It’s about time we celebrated movies regardless of the genre.”

“It’s honestly quite unlike anything I’ve seen,” he said. “It’s hyper-local and it’s hyperkinetic and energetic. It’s no-hold-barred digital filmmaking. It has this energy and core brutality and it taps into notions of toxic masculinity. When it played in Toronto [International Film Festival, last September] it just floored the room.”


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