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Seoul (AFP) – Acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda is back in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this year, with his South Korean debut which explores the country’s controversial practice of “drop boxes” for unwanted babies.
The film is one of two South Korean images competing for the Palme d’Or alongside Park Chan-wook’s ‘Decision to Leave’, after Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ became the country’s first film to win this coveted honor in 2019.
Since then, more and more Korean-language productions have enjoyed explosive global success, from Netflix’s “Squid Game” to Apple TV+’s “Pachinko.”
Kore-eda, who won top prize at Cannes in 2018 for his family drama “Shoplifters” – about a group of Tokyo misfits and con artists who form a kind of alternative family – is back with another exploring tale. similar themes.
Her new South Korean-produced film “Broker” looks at so-called baby boxes where mothers can anonymously abandon their newborns to avoid the stigma and hardships of being a single mother in a patriarchal society.
While researching the project, the Japanese filmmaker, hailed for his sensitive and contemplative explorations of complex family relationships, encountered children in orphanages.
The youngsters, Kore-eda said, wondered if, as unwanted babies, it would have been better not to be born.
Their question became the focus of the film, Kore-eda said.
“Baby boxes also exist in Japan,” Kore-eda said at a press conference in Seoul earlier this month, which he attended virtually.
“I wanted to portray the journey of a group of people – some with good intentions and some with ill will – with various stories surrounding a baby who was left in a baby box.”
The film is a collaboration between Kore-eda and a cast of South Korean stars, including top actors Song Kang-ho (Parasite), Gang Dong-won (Peninsula), and K-pop megastar Lee Ji-eun.
“It’s a massive cast – hard to think of a recent movie that’s had such a long list of high-profile names,” Jason Bechervaise, visiting professor at Korea University, told AFP.
Song, 55, has long been a favorite of leading South Korean filmmakers, including Bong, with whom he collaborated on 2019’s Oscar-winning ‘Parasite’.
Kore-eda said Song’s previous performances were a key inspiration for “Broker.”
The versatile actor has played a range of characters from a repressed Catholic priest who becomes a vampire to a Joseon-era king who starves his son to death.
In “Broker”, Song plays a debt-ridden man who discovers an abandoned baby and volunteers to find him a new family, in exchange for money.
“Song Kang-ho is such an expressive actor, whether it’s expressing tension, comedy or confusion,” Brian Hu, a film professor at San Diego State University, told AFP.
“On the other hand, Kore-eda’s work is so much more naturalistic, often treating professional actors as he would non-professionals,” he said.
“So it’s not just a clash between cultures, but also between cinematic styles.”
“Meticulous and calculated”
Kore-eda has defied geopolitical tensions to build strong relationships with top South Korean talent, even visiting the Busan International Film Festival in 2019 during a trade war.
At the time, he said Japan and South Korea – which have a long and complex history – could “solve and overcome political problems” through solidarity.
“Kore-eda is obviously a much-admired filmmaker, so he’s able to attract such talent,” Bechervaise said.
“It’s interesting that he came to Korea to make his next movie despite frosty ties.”
Song said he had expected “meticulous and calculated” direction from Kore-eda, partly based on his own preconceptions about Japanese artists.
“But he really respected us and brought out our certain emotions in a really free, comfortable and inexhaustible way.”
Actress and K-pop star Lee – also known as IU – plays the young mother who abandons her newborn baby.
One of the most successful K-pop artists of her generation, the 28-year-old received rave reviews for her performance in the 2018 TV drama series “My Mister,” where she played a young woman in deep debt.
Kore-eda said he watched the show during the pandemic and was moved to tears by his performance, which made him decide to offer him the role of “broker”.
© 2022 AFP