Skip to Main Content

Bong Joon Ho Celebrated as Outstanding Director at Santa Barbara Film Festival

Release Date: January 23,2020

South Korean director Bong Joon Ho.
South Korean Bong Joon Ho was celebrated Thursday night as the outstanding director at Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

By Rochelle Rose, Noozhawk Contributing Writer | @NoozhawkSociety | January 23, 2020 | 11:18 p.m.

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival presented its Outstanding Director of the Year Award to celebrated South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho on Thursday evening at the Arlington Theatre.

The recognition was given for Ho’s six-time Oscar-nominated film "Parasite," which very recently made history at the SAG Awards for the first-ever foreign language film to win Best Ensemble.

"Parasite" has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best International Feature Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Production Design.

SBIFF honored the director with a daylong career retrospective, culminating in the evening tribute.

At a free showing of the film earlier in the afternoon at a packed Lobero Theatre, SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling said, “This was my favorite movie in 2019. Director Ho will be only the fourth recipient to receive this solo honor in the festival’s history.”

Joining the acclaimed director on the red carpet, and later as the presenter of the Outstanding Director of the Year Award, was South Korean actress Jeong-eun Lee, who portrayed the character Moon-gwang in "Parasite."

Bong Joon Ho is interviewed Thursday night on the red carpet.Click to view larger
Bong Joon Ho is interviewed Thursday night on the red carpet at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. He was named this year’s outstanding director. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)

“To be nominated for an Oscar with legends like Tarantino and Scorsese, who I have admired all my life, is such an honor," he said. "I feel like I have already won the award.” 

The low-key Q&A with accompanying film clips was moderated by Scott Feinberg, who noted that this was the fifth year he handled the SBIFF director’s award and panels. Interpreter Sharon Troy assisted during the interview.

“Tonight we are honoring one of the most celebrated directors in the world right now," Feinberg said. "'Parasite' is only his seventh feature film. It has grossed $140 million just in this country, and it's still counting.”

Ho said that the reason he got interested in filmmaking was that as a child, he loved to watch films on TV and never went outside.

“My family didn’t do sports or like to travel," he said. "My mother was kind of a germophobe and didn’t allow me to go to a movie theater, so I was only allowed to watch movies at home on television.

Bong Joon Ho is interviewed Thursday night on stage at the Arlington Theatre.
Director Bong Joon Ho is interviewed Thursday night on stage at the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara by Scott Feinberg. On the left it interpreter Sharon Troy. (Fritz Olenberger photo)

"This was also a time when there was censorship of movies in South Korea, so scenes were omitted. As a result, I started developing my own cinematic language.”

His father was a university graphic design instructor. Although his films depict themes of poverty and great wealth, he said his family was "in the middle."

Ho was a sociology major in college, but admitted to knowing very little about the field.

“I spent most of my time in a film club called the Yellow Door. My job was to manage the video collection, which meant illegally copying a lot of the Western classics. Hitchcock’s 'Psycho' was one of my favorites. At the Yellow Door, I made my first short film in 16mm.”

Clips were screened from the feature films that Ho later created, including "Memories of Murder," "The Host," "Mother" and "Parasite." Other movies included "Barking Dogs Never Bite" (2000), "Snowpiercer" (2013) and "Okja" (2017).

The Outstanding Director of the Year Award has previously been presented to Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Kathryn Bigelow ("Hurt Locker"), David Fincher ("Benjamin Button") and David O'Russell ("American Hustle").

The 35th Santa Barbara International Film Festival continues through Saturday.

For more information, contact SBIFF, 1528 Chapala St., Suite 203 in Santa Barbara, call 805.963.0023, or visit

— Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk@NoozhawkSociety@NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Bong Joon Ho with Scott Feinberg.Click to view larger
Bong Joon Ho with Scott Feinberg, who interviewed the South Korean filmmaker on stage at the Arlington Theatre as he received the outstanding director award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. (Steve Kennedy / Noozhawk photo)