BURNING wins more international awards, touted as one of the Oscar’s biggest snubs

Yoo Ah In – BURNING U.K poster


Yoo Ah In’s critically acclaim movie BURNING is a gift that keeps on giving passed the major awards season (read: after the Academy Awards). Since its Cannes premiere, Lee Chang Dong’s film has bagged 86 wins and 180 nominations so far from all over the world under its belt, and is still counting. (See the complete list of accolades received by BURNING in Wikipedia).

In February 2019 alone, BURNING still garnered accolades left and right. The film won Best Dramatic Film at the 2019 American Film Awards, Grand Prix of 2018 at the Belgian Film Press Union, and 3 major prizes from INOCA (International Online Cinema Awards) for Best Non-English Language Film, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor. [Note: Belgian Film Press Union is consisted of a hundred Belgian film critics and journalists. The organization praised BURNING as a drama that “treats themes such as the class struggle and compulsive jealousy with a flamboyant direction serving an unpredictable thriller, a rare cruelty, and a virulent critique of an apathetic youth.”]

For sure, we can’t dismiss BURNING’s achievement for making into the Academy Awards shortlist –the first Korean film to do so– though the film didn’t make it to Top 5 finalists which baffled many film buffs to no end. Critics mourned over the result and called BURNING one of the biggest snubs for the Oscar’s best foreign film.

Variety U.S in the article “Oscar Nominations: The 15 Biggest Snubs and Surprises” puts BURNING as one of the biggest snubs, saying:

The South Korean thriller starring Steven Yeun was expected to be one of the foreign film nominees given its rave reviews.

GQ magazine (U.S) says “Burning would have won”:

The cerebral Korean thriller was shortlisted for an Academy Award—and then it was snubbed. So what happened?

Burning has had, by all accounts, a successful year, starting with the record-high jury score of 3.8 at Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered. It continued to garner critical acclaim, and by the end of the year, Steven Yeun was honored as Best Supporting Actor at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards. (Not that that’s a direct indication of an Oscar nod for the film.) Yeun’s chances were a slim shot from the get-go, despite his being a clear front-runner for the category—his performance lacked the showiness of more Oscar-acknowledged roles (he didn’t eat a raw bison liver on a mountainside, for example). But the omission of Burning from the Oscars, especially as a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, is still perplexing, if not exactly a surprise.

The Rollingstone (U.S) also puts BURNING in “Oscars 2019: 16 Major Nomination Snubs and Surprises” list:

Here are 16 of the biggest snubs and surprises from this year’s list of nominations. Some have been grouped together per film and category, some have been singled out. All of them have us going, “WTF, Academy?!”

Burning: Best Foreign Language Film
The Academy proved that they can think outside of the box a bit when it comes to foreign-language films, nominating two for Best Director this year (Cold War and Roma). But this is often a category with a few wild misses — and ignoring Lee Chang-dong’s masterful Burning singes more than most. It would have been the first Korean movie ever nominated in the section. Was it too odd for them? Too disturbing? Too enigmatic? We’ll never know.

Rotten Tomatoes chimed in with an article that reads, “The Biggest Snubs and Surprises of the 2019 Oscar Nominations”:

Surprise: Germany’s NEVER LOOK AWAY (2019) 77% beats out South Korea’s BURNING (BEONING) (2018) 95% for a foreign language slot.

Director Chang-Dong Lee’s Burning is one of 2018’s most acclaimed films, Certified Fresh at 95%, and has been generating buzz on the festival circuit for months (many even hoped for a surprise Best Supporting Actor nomination for Steven Yeun). On Tuesday morning, though, Lee’s film missed out on a slot in the Best Foreign Language Film category, with director Florian Henckel von Donnersmark’s Never Look Away, representing Germany, sneaking in as a surprise contender.


Prominent film critics also expressed their disappointment via twitter:


Film critic Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times met Lee Chang Dong and a Korean film critic directly at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Critics Awards (LAFCA) ceremony, a day after The Academy announced the nominees, and told them, “Lee Chang-dong’s masterpiece is one of the best films I’ve ever seen in 2018, and I can’t help but complain about the Academy’s members’ lack of affection for this film.” He added, “Burning is a critically acclaimed film that critics would like more than audiences would. I can’t deny that Academy members chose Shoplifter and Capernaum because they’re more appealing to public compare to this film, which is a slow and uncomfortable two-and-a half hour and its dramatic or thematic meaning is not easy to accept.”

Earlier in the same month, Lee Chang Dong was invited to The Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA), New York, where all his films were presented. When someone asked him if he was confident that BURNING would make it to the Oscar’s top 5, Lee Chang Dong replied, “I’m not confident. Other preliminary candidates have strong distributors that’s fiercely supporting their work, while my film has a weak distributor, so I’m not optimistic about it.” He said that the influence of big distributors during the Academy Awards preliminary, such as Netflix and Amazon, played bigger part in the evaluation system. “Korean films are still on the doorway/entrance and it will take a while to get past that mechanism. Wouldn’t it be easier next time?”, he said. 


Despite the dismay, many people still re-watched and showered the film with praises. Even the Academy Awards winner director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water) joined the fans club and was floored after watching the film just a day before Academy Awards ceremony took place.


More impressions from people who watched for the first time and re-watched BURNING the second time:


The conclusions from the film critics by the end of the awards season:


On Saturday, Feb.16, OCN broadcast BURNING. The film became #1 Naver top trending topic for 3 hours straight. “Burning ending” and “Jeon Jong Seo” topped the trending topic chart as well. Many people were intrigued by the message behind the story and floored by the film’s ending. 

[Note: After the film was aired in OCN, one Korean YouTuber interpreted the film as a political story, and this interpretation became the most popular ones among young audience. The Youtuber said that Yoo Ah In (Jongsu) represented director Lee Chang Dong and the progressives, Jeon Jong Seo (Haemi) the people, and Steven Yeun (Ben) the conservatives. The film began with Lee Myung Bak administration. Park Geun Hye’s regime was born when Haemi returned from Africa with Ben, and her vanish meant that the new regime killed the people]


This year’s Academy Awards nominees and winners are so complicated and full of controversies, so maybe it doesn’t baffle us much why this masterpiece got snubbed afterall. Regardless of the result, we’re all so proud of BURNING’s tremendous achievement and Yoo Ah In’s performance being recognized and highly regarded among the international movie critics. That’s what they deserved. So, let’s give Team BURNING a big round of applause!👏👏👏👏


Translated by Admin007 Yoo Ah In International Fans Community

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One Response to “BURNING wins more international awards, touted as one of the Oscar’s biggest snubs”
  1. Laura says:

    This year’s Oscar is a garbage! Burning got more prestigious awards more than that.

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