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Korean director Kim Bora (House of Hummingbird) and Japanese actress Ai Hashimoto discussed mortality, filmmaking, and the importance of human connection in a world in the grip of a pandemic, at the first Asia Lounge session at Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) on Nov. 1.
The talk was hosted by director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters), who proposed and organized the initiative to bring Asian film folk together to discuss their craft. Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, Kim joined the event via an online link from Korea, while Hashimoto and Kore-eda appeared on stage in front of a small audience.
Kim spoke of the influence and inspiration she had drawn from Kore-eda’s Maborosi (2004) and Nobody Knows (2004), particularly his “quiet and serene style” of filmmaking, for her semi-autobiographical 2018 indie debut hit House of Hummingbird.
Kore-eda talked of his admiration for Kim’s seven years in the making coming-of-age film, and said that if she ever made a movie in Japan she should cast Hashimoto, adding, “Not that anyone has asked me to be a producer or anything.”
Since coming to the audience’s attention as a schoolgirl in Tetsuya Nakashima’s foreign-language Oscar-nominated Confessions, Hashimoto, 24, has appeared in dozens of films and TV dramas, picking up awards along the way.
Hashimoto said she strongly empathized with the teenage lead in Kim’s film in terms of going through the same feelings of emotional instability when she was the same age. She added that she was moved and impressed by Kim’s handling of feelings of loss in the film.
“I’m always thinking about life and death. Every day, the way the sun rises and then sets, and then the moon rises in the sky; it’s like we are born and die every day,” responded Kim.
The Japanese actress said she was always conscious of the fact that people can lose their lives at any time and that every picture taken of her could become a photograph of a deceased person the next day.
The discussion later returned to mortality and how the pandemic has brought that into sharp focus for many people, though both Kim and Hashimoto agreed that their own thinking hadn’t changed as they had long grappled with the issue.
However, Kim said that the airborne nature of the coronavirus had driven home the interconnectedness of humans, reminding us that, “we all breathe the same air.”
The threat to physical theaters, particularly arthouse cinemas, from the pandemic is something all the participants expressed concern about. Kore-eda and Hashimoto were both active in a crowd-funding campaign in Japan to prevent arthouse cinemas shuttering due to the impact of coronavirus.
“A lot of people are worried that cinemas will close forever, but I hope that will not be the case, and I believe they won’t disappear. I continue to have hope,” said Kim.
The Asia Lounge talks will continue throughout the festival, featuring Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and Taiwan’s Tsai Ming-liang and Huang Xi.
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