What does ‘Parasite's’ historic Oscar win mean for global cinema?

In a historic first, South Korea’s ‘Parasite’ has won the Oscar for Best Picture. (AFP)
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Updated 10 February 2020

What does ‘Parasite's’ historic Oscar win mean for global cinema?

DUBAI: The Oscars have always been a local affair. For the last 92 years, the elite of Hollywood, the filmmaking members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science gather in gowns and tuxedos to walk the red carpet past people they idle behind in the LA traffic, sit next to people they live down the block from, and give awards to people that they run into at the supermarket, that is if they do their own shopping at all.  

While the Academy Awards have always drawn eyes from around the world to see the films that the industry itself deems the best, Hollywood has often had a hard time looking beyond its borders. Until last night when South Korea’s Parasite triumphantly took home the top prize, no non-English language film had ever won Best Picture, in spite of the fact that international cinema has been pushing the artform forward since it was first brought forth by two mustachioed French brothers 125 years ago.  

It wasn’t until 1947, at the Oscars’ 18th ceremony, that international features were even awarded, and not until 1956 that the competitive category “Best Foreign Language Film” was added, where the work of history’s greatest directors such as Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurasawa was relegated to. South Korea has been nominating films for the category since 1962, not achieving even a nomination until 2019—the year for which it finally won, and also the year that films stopped being considered “foreign language”, changed to “international feature” films. 

Bong Joon Ho also won Best Director. (AFP)

That change matters a lot—and may have provided an ease on the mental block that had stopped great international films from achieving the top honor. There is no ‘foreign language’ in film after all, as the language of cinema is universal. That was clear as Bong Joon Ho, who also won Best Director, quoted his hero and fellow nominee Martin Scorsese in his acceptance speech. Film has always bridged cultures, and the fact that a barrier remained towards full appreciation of the breadth of the artform was nonsensical and unjust. 

Now that Parasite, a film as specific in its cultural details as it is universal in its themes of income inequality and class disparity, has smashed that barrier, the world of international film can finally get the appreciation it deserves, bringing with it greater box office returns, and a broadening viewership. Not only does this keep the Oscars relevant, as they battle dwindling television ratings worldwide, it will give these films a platform previously reserved for those in Hollywood’s club of mostly homogenous, slowly diversifying membership, to the benefit of both filmmakers and fans. 

That bridge, too, is open to Arab cinema. Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum found huge audiences in China because, like Parasite, its themes resonate far beyond Lebanon’s borders. This lays out a clear path forward. As long as a film can touch on the truths of the human condition, it has just as much a right, and now possibility, to gain the highest of accolades. 

For Arab cinema to truly progress, however, it must gain greater public support in its own region rather than just hoping that international approval will be enough. The greatest dialogue must first happen within, just as it has with the thriving Korean film scene, where its own movies out-perform most international fare. As actress Lee Jung-eun rightly pointed out in the acceptance speech for Best Picture last night, it is fervent support at home, first and foremost, that grows its industry and allows great art such as Parasite to be made, and find audiences around the world. 

Five fashion brands with digital-only collections

Updated 05 July 2020

Five fashion brands with digital-only collections

  • Sustainable style via clothes you’ll never actually wear– Is digital fashion the future of the industry?

DUBAI: Digital fashion is increasingly finding a place in the real-world strategy of global brands, and what it lacks in first-wear, feel-good endorphins, it makes up for in saving-the-environment smarts.

What is a digital fashion collection?

Essentially items that will never physically exist. Part creative outlet (dress your Bitmoji avatar in Alexander McQueen), part hypebeast flex (Fortnite’s “skins” are now must-have revenue-drivers) and part opportunity for the fashion world to address its environmental footprint. Crucially, while the industry has struggled to find scalability, digital-only collections represent a clear chance to reduce waste.


@burberry by @earlburgos

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GQ Middle East’s fashion editor, Keanoush Zargham, believes that the concept is long overdue. “It’s vital for fashion brands to adopt a more sustainable way of thinking,” says Zargham. “And it’s great to see how they’re already thinking outside the norms of traditional runway shows, transforming the whole experience into a digital-first concept.”

Why should I consider buying digital fashion?

A cursory glance at your Instagram feed will reveal a host of once-worn “big fit” items that are quickly discarded. Consumers in 2020 buy more and use less, and the wastefulness of fast fashion has reached critical mass. Digital fashion means no items discarded, no material left on the cutting room floor and nothing destined for landfill. The question is, could it ever truly replace the physical element of the industry?

For Dubai-based fashion entrepreneur, Natalia Shustova, the sweet spot could lie somewhere in between worlds. “I don’t really believe in wearing a different item everyday just for social media,” she explains. “I prefer to curate a wardrobe. But the idea of wearing something a little futuristic and impractical to express my creativity – with zero production and waste – then, yes, I would love to try it and purchase digitally.”

While digital fashion collections might remain a work-in-progress, some brands are ahead of the curve.

Louis Vuitton

The Parisian maison dipped a monogrammed toe into the world of digital collections in 2019. Along with a real-world Louis Vuitton x League of Legends capsule collection, people on the multiplayer video game could also purchase Nicolas Ghesquière-designed LV branded skins for around $10. Merging the two worlds, the maison recently included a digital bag for its 2020 Cruise collection.


In 2018, this Scandinavian retailer dropped a genderless digital collection of 19 key pieces. Priced $11-33 and ranging from long cloud puffer jackets to metallic track tops, it was a collection made for digital influence. All you had to do was purchase online, upload your image, click for a digital fit and share. It was wildly popular and drop number two is expected soon.

The Fabricant

Inspired by design student Amber Slooten’s all-digital fashion portfolio, Finnish animator Kerry Murphy founded the brand in 2018 and they have since created digital collections for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger, Puma and A Bathing Ape. Although items aren’t always available to the public, it did sell the world’s first digital dress for a staggering $9,500.



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The brainchild of 3D artist Nathalie Nguyen, this virtual footwear collection is all manga spikes and cyberpunk style. Created more as a creative outlet than as a commercial interest, Nguyen has, so far, resisted requests to create in real time, leaving the brand as an ode to imagination and innovation.

Tommy Hilfiger

The PVH brand aims to fully embrace the digital world by 2021, with a mandate to avoid waste at all costs. While not exactly creating digital collections, Hilfiger will design and make samples digitally, only creating physical clothing for runway shows or when actually sold.