Parasite and the 1 inch revolution

In 2019, director Bong Joon-ho presented his latest masterpiece, Parasite.

The world bowed down to his creative genius with a story filled with plot twists. There were at least three occasions where I did not see them coming. AT. ALL. 

The film is, to say the least, thought provoking.  I basically told everyone I met in the following weeks to watch the film.

If you have watched the film, you must have been so immersed in the story that you have not noticed a silent hero that helped Parasite become a worldwide phenomenon, the translator who subtitled the film.

Without subtitles, Parasite would be just another foreign film with enormous potential but with very little visibility.

Along with its success, Parasite has re-initiated another debate. Should you subtitle or dub your film?

Just as everything else in life, the answer is; it depends.

It depends on your target audience and most of all, in the medium you will use to distribute your film.

I  personally prefer subtitles. I do enjoy watching a movie as it was created instead of covered up with a layer of terms and idioms that sound familiar to me. Of course, this might be because I work in the language industry. Living and breathing other cultures is part of my day to day life.

If you have a Netflix account, and you speak a language that is available with subtitles and dubbing, you will inevitably notice a difference in how the same sentence is being represented.

This is because subtitles have time and character constraints, which will make the translator re-work a dialogue multiple times until meaning, characters and time align.You will oftentimes have the raw meaning of the dialogue without the word by word representation. The nature of subtitling is what makes so many people, not involved in the language industry, discuss the quality of the translation. 

Dubbing has a little more room for translating a bit more closely to the original content. Although the voice actor has to mimic the mouth movement of the actor on screen, there is more room to package the product to a foreign audience in a way that makes it easier for the target audience to digest the story.

With dubbing, all elements that sound foreign can be easily hidden with terms that are more relatable to the target audience. This is a translation technique that can also be used in subtitling.

Another,and perhaps the most important aspect of deciding between dubbing or subtitling, is the medium where the film will be distributed.

If we take Brazil for example, in Brazil if films are being distributed to be watched on an open channel on tv, they are always dubbed. This is because open channels are available to everyone.This means that the film has to be accessible to over 200 million people in the country regardless of age or educational level.

If you are going to a movie theater in Brazil, aside from animated films, the majority of films are subtitled.This is because the audience who buys tickets is different from the one that watches films from home on open tv channels.

Streaming services try to democratize the availability of how  films will be distributed by offering subtitles and dubbing options to a set number of languages. Assuming that you can speak one of the languages offered, the choice is yours. Choose the one that feels comfortable to you.

In his acceptance speech, Bong Joon Ho said that “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films” 

His comments were made to an American audience, of course, who still has to adapt to such a format.

However, Brazilians have been using this system for many years and even prefer subtitles over dubbing.

Still in doubt, between subtiles or dubbing?

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