Busan: Hirokazu Kore-eda Calls for Artistic Solidarity Across Borders Amid Japan-Korea Trade War

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Hirokazu Kore-eda

The acclaimed auteur urged for Japanese and Korean artists to show support for one another to overcome their countries' fraught political situation, while also praising his regional peers, such as China's Jia Zhangke and Korea's Lee Chang-dong.

Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda, winner of the 2018 Cannes Palme d'Or, took center stage Saturday at the Busan International Film Festival and used the occasion to call for unity between nations as a trade war continues to rage between his native Japan and South Korea.

"I think if people work together and show their support for each other, they can overcome politics," said Kore-eda. "Through showing solidarity for each other we can solve and overcome these political problems. I believe in solidarity."

The Japanese director — who won the Palme D’or with last year’s stirring social drama Shoplifters  pointed to BIFF as an "inspiration" when it came to artists dealing with the forces of politics.

"When Busan was under political suppression, many international film people showed their support and I was one of them," said Kore-eda. "Now, after all those years of difficulty, Busan has been able to come this far. That’s why I am able to visit on this day. Back then, solidarity with Busan showed it could endure through the problems it was having with politics."

The helmer was referring to BIFF’s much-publicized spat with Korean government departments following the screening of the controversial documentary The Truth Shall Not Sink With Sewol in 2014. The film tackled the government incompetence and malfeasance in the response to the Sewol Ferry that had claimed the lives of hundreds, including scores of school kids. The Busan government took umbrage with the criticism and BIFF faced funding cuts and criminal charges against top management. Filmmakers from around the world stood in solidarity with the festival's exercise of freedom of expression, but it wasn't until a change in government that the controversy wound down.  

Kore-eda is attending this year's BIFF both to receive the festival's Asian Filmmaker of the Year award and to present his latest drama The Truth, which premiered earlier this fall in Venice.

During the press conference, he also revealed that he has felt pressure to keep up with his peers across the region throughout his career.

"First, I want to make a good film," Kore-eda said when asked what motivated him. "But then, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Lee Chang-dong, Jia Zhangke — I always think of contemporary Asian filmmakers, those colleagues, and I also receive inspiration from them. I don’t want to be ashamed of myself when I show my films to them."

BIFF continues through Oct. 12.